Dorms of years past: Willard Residential College

    A long, illustrious history accompanies the formation of Willard. It was named after Frances Willard and dedicated in 1938 as a replacement for the old Willard Hall, which is now the music administration building. The $630,000 complex served as the primary residence hall for 250 freshmen women, and shared the same architect as Deering Library, James Gamble Rogers. Willard became a residential college in the 1970s, with Professor Irwin Weil serving as the first faculty master. An alumni news magazine back then called Willard Hall “one of the most modern and beautiful residence halls of contemporary history," and it’s easy to see why. 

    Fun Fact: The 1993 year book states: “Playboy voted the Frances Willard Party as one of the top five college parties in the country.” 

    Fun Fact: In the summer of 1981, the third floor lounge and the third and fourth floor corridors of Willard were destroyed by a fire, possibly caused by fireworks that shot into the dorm. Willard was closed for the rest of the summer and 95 students had to relocate.

    Fun Fact: Sunbathing girls on Willard’s roof was once a common sight. Willard had a roof garden that extended the entire length of the Sherman Avenue side of the building. It was surrounded by a high brick wall, though, so no peeping, boys. 

    The rug in Willard’s living room was an expensive gift from the old James A. Patten home. It was the decorative theme for this room, with the green of the rug matching the buff wallpaper and some of the chairs. The picture of Frances Willard hanging on the wall was a gift from Alpha Phi, Willard’s sorority. The chairs and the table were made of dark, bleached mahogany, and the davenport made of white leather must have been a comfortable spot from which the Willard girls could gaze out at the luxury that surrounded them. Dated 1939.

    If you were a Willard girl back then, you’d have been pampered with a lounge chair that was provided in every double. Your desks would have been made according to specifications from A-grade students. You would have gazed up into a ceiling that was either peach, blue, yellow or green depending on the floor you were on, while resting your feet on a carpet of the same color. You wouldn’t even be disturbed by the girls tramping up and down the stairs, through the corridors that were papered with imported washable wallpaper, as the floor outside was covered with spring rubber that muted the sound of footsteps. The best part? Once a week, your room would be cleaned by a maid, and you’d get a fresh sheet and pillow cases. Too bad you’re living in 2012. Dated 1958.

    Girls entertained their dates in date parlors. Imagine true love blossoming in a room with peach wallpaper adorned with blue flowers and peach or blue ceilings, or like the one in this picture, with Swedish modern furniture and leather and fine fabric divans and chairs. Who needs the Shakespeare Garden anymore when you can fall in love in style in Willard?

    Willard’s library was in a French provincial design.

    Eating in Willard seemed to have been a terribly complicated affair, according to a 1948 incoming freshmen guide. Willard girls had to dress up in stockings, heels and a dress for Thursday night and Sunday lunch, since the food at these times is extra special." Scarves could be worn to hide pinned-up hair between Friday night dinner and Sunday breakfast, dungarees were a no-no at breakfast and lunch and you couldn’t just stumble down the stairs to grab breakfast in your pajamas—you actually had to dress up. But the guide also included a tempting note:  “At dinner there is a waiter service in real hotel style. You make your selections from a menu, checking them on a card, and your dinner is brought in steaming hot.” Hear that, nuCuisine? Dated 1939.


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