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Tyler House


In the winter of 1897-8, Smith College acquired land at what was then the south-west corner of the campus, on which two buildings already stood. One, Norwell House, was demolished to make room for the new campus housing, while the other still stands, as Tyler Annex. The new building was named for William Seymour Tyler, one of the original trustees of the college . Tyler House was completed for the beginning of the fall semester 1898, having cost $31, 494 to build and $6, 544 to furnish. The plans for the new building were by William C. Brockelsby of Hartford, CT, inspired by the Queen Anne style popular for women’s colleges in England at the time . The Smith College Monthly described the building’s exterior: “It will be of red brick … and four stories high, with hanging bay-windows on both sides of the front.” In addition to accommodation for 57 students, the house contained a dining room, reception room, drawing room, matron’s room, teacher’s room, sewing room, kitchen, pantry, laundry room, and a bicycle room . Tyler was part of the college’s ‘cottage plan’ for housing, designed to promote a home-like atmosphere . It was hailed for the introduction of a new architectural style to the campus, as well as for increasing the amount of on-campus housing available .

William Seymour Tyler

William Seymour Tyler, D.D., LL.D., for whom Tyler House was named, was an important member of the Smith community from the time of the college’s founding. He was one of the original trustees named in Sophia Smith’s will, and served as President of the Board of Trustees from 1871-1875, the time between the official founding of the college and its opening. Dr. Tyler helped to select the faculty of the new college and its first President, L. Clark Seelye . He also designed the motto and device of the college seal. His academic involvement went beyond Smith, for he was, at various times, President of the Mount Holyoke Seminary and College Board of Trustees and of Williston Seminary, and Professor of Greek at Amherst College .

Events in Tyler History

On April 30, 1929, a fire broke out in Tyler House. According to the Springfield Newspaper, “The fire broke out at 3:40, and was thought to have been caused by a plumber’s torch overheating a copper gutter on the roof, setting woodwork afire.” The attic and rear of the house sustained the worst damage, mainly from the water used to extinguish the fire. Many of the students’ trunks, which were stored in the attic, were damaged, but the girls saved their clothes by throwing them out of the windows before leaving the house. However, in spite of the damage, a cold supper was served in the dining room an hour after the fire- “hailed as a feat of domestic management”- and all but 15 of the residents were able to return to their rooms that night .

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