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Dewey House in the Early Days of Smith College

view of Smith campus

Dewey House, on the far right, was the first student house on Smith College campus


When Smith College first opened its doors in 1875, College Hall was the main building on campus which hosted all classes, academic events, and lectures.  Aside from College Hall, the fourteen women to join Smith’s first incoming class spent their time either in College Hall, downtown, or in Dewey House.  Although Dewey House was built in 1827 by Judge Charles A. Dewey, it became Smith College property when the Trustees bought it to house the first students.  Dewey House allowed the women attending Smith to live on a college campus but maintain a traditional lifestyle, being sure they lived in houses rather than dormitories. The photo on the left demonstrates a view of campus sometime between 1873 and 1885.  From the College Tower, one can see the first four houses on Smith College campus, with Dewey on the far right.  After the Trustees bought Dewey House, it was moved to this location, where today one will find Seelye Hall.  To make room for the new academic building in 1900, Dewey was moved to its present location.

Dewey House became the center of events on campus for the first group of students as their house mother, Mrs. Elizabeth

A group of students in 1883 enjoy a leisurely game of tennis in front of Dewey House

Hopkins presided over teas and receptions to help the girls mingle with men from Amherst as well as men from town.  In the photo on the right, we see a group of students playing tennis in 1883 in front of Dewey House.  At the time this photo was taken, tennis was a sport new to Smithies that had been introduced to a Washburn (the second house to hold Smith students) resident whose brother played the game at Harvard.  Smith students began playing the game for fun on the lawn between Washburn House and Dewey House.



In these photos, one can see that life at Smith has evolved greatly since its beginning years with fourteen students and only one academic building.  Now used to house offices, Dewey House is a building on campus unknown to many students.  Yet in the late 1800s and into the 1900s, campus life evolved around the beautiful white building.  After undergoing multiple relocations, we can see the historical importance of Dewey not only because of the exquisite architecture but also because of the history of tradition the building evokes for all who love Smith College.


Teaching Aids

These photos were all found in the Smith College Archives.  One can visit the archives to see more photos and read information about buildings on campus, as well as campus life and athletics.

1.  Aerial view of Hatfield, Washburn, Hubbard House, and Dewey from College Tower, 1873-1885.  Photograph by Knowlton Brothers, Northampton, Mass.
2.  Tennis in front of Dewey House, Smith College, 1883.

Secondary Source

If you are interested in learning more about the history of architecture on the Smith College campus, you should read “This: The House We Live In: T he Smith College Campus from 1871 to 1982″ by Eleanor Terry Lincoln

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