One of the direct results of the Methodist Educational Advance campaign, planned to cost $200,000. The building was designed to house 230 women students. Three years passed, and evidence that the structure was completed appears for the first time in the catalog for 1925-1926, which states that “Susanna Wesley Hall is the gift of a group of Methodists, who prefer to remain unknown. It stands among noble elms and oaks on a ten acre tract facing Michigan Avenue. The building is Colonial in style, fire proof, and admirably arranged.”
Since its completion, thousands of college women have made it their campus home.
The freshman men’s housing problem was solved by Seaton Hall, but since both lower and upper class women students had only Susanna Wesley Hall and Dean Hall as properly outfitted dormitories, Susanna Wesley was indeed crowded. From time to time the college had purchased houses from private owners along streets adjacent to the campus and to the Susanna Wesley Hall neighborhood to serve as temporary housing for women. They were equipped as well as they could be to make them comfortable, but Dr. Whitehouse and those close to him never ceased regarding them as merely an improvised solution to a women’s housing problem which was growing more acute with the passing of each academic year.
By November 1954, Dr. Whitehouse reported that the Kresge Foundation had supplied the college with “a generous grant of funds” to “make possible the immediate erection” of East Hall, West Hall, and the Dorothy McVittie Kresge dining room. Dr. Whitehouse called the project “the largest building project in Albion’s history.:
Ground was broken October 9, 1954, during the weekend of Homecoming with the reading of a litany submitted by a trustee, Bishop Marshall R. Reed. Those who participated in the ceremonies included, besides Dr. Whitehouse himself, Dr. Stanley S. Kresge ’23, president of the foundation which supplied the funds; Dr. Howard C. Lawrence, president of the board of trustees; and Trustee W. Clark Dean, chairman of the Board’s buildings and grounds committee.
They also attended a luncheon the same day at which speakers were Dr. Lawrence, Dr. Kresge, Miss Nancy J. Crowe, president of the Association of Women students; Dean of Women Audrey K. Wilder, and Dr. Whitehouse.
Work on the three additions to Susanna Wesley Hall started immediately. As was the case with other recently constructed buildings, Frank Dean, brother of W. Clark Dean, was the supervising architect. He was associated with the Philadelphia firm of architects, Trautwein and Howard. Plans called for the erection of the three additions at the rear, or north, side of Susanna Wesley Hall.
They were built to provide housing for at least 250 women students. They also were to contain other rooms and service facilities necessary for dormitory living. These included a laundry, quarters for supervisory personnel, kitchenettes, lounges, study rooms, infirmary facilities, and typewriting rooms. Dr. Whitehouse made sure everyone knew that, while the structures would be additions to “Susie,” East Hall and West Hall would have their own entrances which would face Michigan Avenue. Between them and adjoining Susanna Wesley Hall would eb the new dining room. Its large north window would look out on the dormitory grounds much as the east windows of Baldwin Hall overlook part of the college “grove.” All women students except those at Dean Hall would take their meals in the new dining room. Adjuncts to the room also would provide private dining space.
Construction started. The Barnes Construction Company of Grand Rapids was the prime contractor. Work was somewhat behind schedule with only the upper three floors of East Hall occupied. Both new dormitories were completely occupied by women students by the following June. The president reported to trustees on June 4 that some work on the dining room as well as on several small jobs in connection with it remained to be completed.
It was on September 4, 1956, that the three-unit addition to Susanna Wesley Hall was dedicated after completion. Dorothy McVittie Kresge, wife of Dr. Stanley S. Kresge, woman for whom the new dining room was named, mother of three sons who had attended Albion, and strong supporter of the college, attended the dedication.
It was in the report of Dr. Whitehouse dated December 13, 1956, that the reason for his terming the project the largest construction job in the college’s history became apparent. He revealed that the Kresge foundation’s gift for the work totaled $1,300,000. Gildart, 242
Believed by many to be one of Albion’s most charming structures, Susanna Wesley Hall, a women’s dormitory, has looked much as it does here for more than thirty years. The photograph was made in early autumn, 1960.
Not visible to casul passerby from Michigan avenue is this view of the Dorothy McVittie Kresge dining hall, completed in 1956 for Albion women students. It is situated at the rear of Susanna Wesley HAll between East and West Halls.
Source: Gildart, Robert. Albion College, 1835-1960, A History. Chicago: Donnelley Lakeside Press, 1961.
From the Albion College Archives
Susannah Wesley Residence Hall
Originally built as a women’s dorm in 1925, the anonymous group of Methodist donors requested the building be called “Susannah Wesley Hall”. The anonymous donors were not only paying for the construction of the building but also for the furnishings. Once the ten-acre plot on Michigan Avenue was cleared (the D.A. Garfield house was razed to make way for the Hall), construction could begin and the dorm was opened in 1926. It was known as “Susie” to generations of students.
Image from the College website
Some of the traditions of the women of Susannah Wesley Hall were as follows:
Freshman Week – The purpose of which was to give the new students the opportunity to get acquainted with the college and each other and to register before the upperclassmen arrived. The programs during the week included lectures on the history and traditions of Albion, intelligence tests, receptions, tours of campus, and a football game.
House Meetings – At 9:00 on occasional evenings the drawing room of the Hall became the scene of unusual activity – women in pajamas, “The Sweetheart of Sigma Chi” coming from the piano, a scramble for davenports. The meeting is called to order, minutes are read, roll is called, reports are given and new business discussed.
Teas – Formal and informal teas were held every Thursday afternoon from 3:30-5:00. Once a month the tea was formal and held in the small parlors. The women of Wesley were hostesses to the women of the faculty, wives of professors, and fraternity matrons. A musical program was usually presented in the reception room.
Dinners – Every Wednesday night was “guest night”, when everyone dressed up for dinner and MEN were allowed to visit. Between courses, musical attractions and readings were offered, often consisting of college and fraternity songs.
Birthday Dinners – The third Wednesday of every month was used to celebrate the birthdays of women for that month. The “birthday girls” would wear formal dresses and sit at special tables in the middle of the room and were served a large birthday cake.
Christmas Breakfast – On the last morning before the women separated for the holidays, all the residents, led by kimono-clad seniors carrying candles, would march into the dining room for breakfast together.
Serenades – It is eleven or one o’clock, and a quartet or whole chorus of male voices can be heard in the court outside of Wesley. Instantly the news spreads through the entire dormitory and every window is crowded with sleepy women, hoping to be the object of their affections.
Freshmen could not be hostesses or assistant hostesses at the tables.
Before dinner on Wednesday evenings and Sunday noons, freshmen were responsible for having the piano in the dining room.
During the week of class scraps, freshmen had to uphold the old tradition of wearing green ribbons. The Wednesday of that week was considered Task Day, and the freshmen had to perform any duties requested by seniors. At the end of the week, freshmen women were expected to provide some form of entertainment for the remainder of the women in the dormitory.
All freshmen were expected to know the creed and benediction of Susanna Wesley Hall by the second house meeting for the year.
The Dormitory Creed – Barbara Clark
We believe in the principles of Susanna Wesley: in freedom of opinion, in religious education, and in knowledge of the world about us.
We believe in the dedications of our talents to the work of the Lord.
We believe it our duty to be happy in appreciation of God’s universe; to live in loving friendship with one another; to live so in purity, truth, and righteousness that there may be light.
Benediction – Ruth Parsons
May the loving spirit of the Friend of all unite our souls in sympathetic friendship. Let every setting of the sun find each of us with a stronger body, a more loving heart, and a more understanding mind. The love of Christ go with us and bring us joy.
It was expected that all times freshmen would render all courtesies to and considerations to upperclassmen.
Sophomore women were expected enforce all the freshmen “rules”. (Susannah Wesley Annual, May 1927)
The East and West “legs” of the horseshoe that is now Susannah Wesley Hall were added between 1954-56 and, for many years, it has housed most of our freshman, both male and female – since known as “Wesley”. The Dorothy McVittie Kresge Dining Hall was named after the devoted wife of alumnus and trustee Stanley S. Kresge and mother of alumnus Stanley, Jr.
All photographs are from the Albion College Archives Photograph Files, unless otherwise noted.
Residence Life: Wesley Hall
Gates, Tiffany. (1998, March 20). “Seaton Hall: a new freshmen experience is evolving; Approximately 60 first year students will be excluded from the Wesley Hall tradition next year.” Pleiad. Retrieved 11 June 2003, http://www.albion.edu/pleiad/1998/03_20/news_4.asp.
Simpson, Rob. (1999, October 7). “Albion police patrol Wesley for vandals.” Pleiad. Retrieved 11 June 2003, http://www.albion.edu/pleiad/1999/10_07/news_3.asp.
Little, Rebecca. (2000, Feb. 11). “First-year experience times two Sophomores scheduled to live in Wesley.” Pleiad. Retrieved 11 June 2003, http://www.albion.edu/pleiad/2000/02_11/news_5.asp.
“Wesley experience criticized.” (1998, April 17). Pleiad. Retrieved 11 June 2003, http://www.albion.edu/pleiad/1998/04_17/opinions_4.asp.
Shunk, Sara. (1997, Nov. 14). “Members of the faculty move into Wesley Hall; Wesley Hall coordinator establishes a program for students and faculty to interact outside class.” Pleiad. Retrieved 11 June 2003, http://www.albion.edu/pleiad/1997/11_14/features_6.asp.
Kluever, Lindsay. (1999, Dec. 3). “Art combats Wesley graffiti incident: Art as Political Action class recreates a bathroom stall with positive messages.” Pleiad. Retrieved 11 June 2003, http://www.albion.edu/pleiad/1999/12_03/news_1.asp.
Student Senate. Minutes. February 14, 2000.
“Wesley experience input welcomed.” (1998, Nov. 6). Pleiad. Retrieved 11 June 2003, http://www.albion.edu/pleiad/1998/11_06/opinions_3.asp.
Staff. (1999, September 17). “Offensive Grafitti Plagues Wesley Hall.” Pleiad. Retrieved 11 June 2003, http://www.albion.edu/pleiad/1999/09_17/news_2.asp
“Kremer has concerns with racist activities in Wesley.” (1999, Sept. 24). Pleiad. Retrieved 11 June 2003, http://www.albion.edu/pleiad/1999/09_24/opinion_2.asp.
Staff. (1998, Oct. 30). “As we see it: Access denied.” Pleiad. Retrieved 11 June 2003, http://www.albion.edu/pleiad/1998/10_30/opinions_1.asp.
Thompson, Emily. (1999, April 23). “First Year Memories: Wesley, Baldwin, and parties.” Pleiad. Retrieved 11 June 2003, http://www.albion.edu/pleiad/1999/04_23/features_4.asp
Krost, Todd. (2000, April 14). “Housing inadequate to attract more students.” Pleiad. Retrieved 11 June 2003, http://www.albion.edu/pleiad/2000/04_14/opinions_2.asp.
Source: Albion College Archives, 2003 [Downloaded July 3, 2003]