High on the Hill

Dixon, Linda J.





Perhaps the very first light which shone from the Hill came from a kerosene or even whale oil lamp used by some student "burning the midnight oil" in Ballou Hall, then known simply as the College Edifice or College Hall. When Tufts opened its doors, Ballou Hall stood alone on this hilltop. The seven young men who made up the entire student body in 1854 lived, worked and worshipped in this one building which, a half century later, was named for the first president of Tufts College, Hosea Ballou, 2d.

Tuition in those days was $35 per year, a room cost $10 a year, and board, which included three meals a day but no laundry or fuel, was $2.50 a week!

Immediately after the college was founded, the trustees realized that more space was needed. They doubled their physical plant with the construction of Packard Hall in 1856 as a dormitory for 26 students. Packard was named for Silvanus Packard, an original trustee of the college and one of its most generous benefactors. His initial financial support and his dramatic appeal for funds were crucial to the launching of the new college.

In 1857 a second dormitory was built, about where the University Store is now. Within three years, however, the college had outgrown it and converted it to a faculty residence. Today it is a dormitory once again. If you would like to see it, look at the western half of Richardson House on Professors Row. The building was moved to the Row in 1870 and later its original size was doubled.

Meanwhile the need for dormitory space was met in 1861 by the erection of East Hall and, in 1872, by the construction of West Hall. The original dormitory, now Packard Hall, was then named Middle Hall because it stood between these two buildings.

To augment his sparse library, President Ballou solicited contributions of books from friends and associates. When the collection became sizable enough, the library was moved to larger quarters in Middle Hall until 1908 when Andrew Carnegie donated money for a new library. These old buildings may seem architecturally old-fashioned to us. Yet they were the epitome of all things modern to a boy arriving at Tufts in the early part of this century — a boy fresh from a Vermont farm or a Cape Cod village — a boy who had never seen a trolley car or an electric light or a central heating system. Sometimes a sophisticated sophomore would take advantage of such a boy. If a freshman were moving into a room previously occupied by this worldly sophomore, the sophomore would sell him a few textbooks or a piece of furniture. Then, in a flash of inspiration, he might turn to the country boy and make this brilliant proposal. "Say, I was going to take my stove along, but it would really be easier to leave it, if you didn't happen to bring yours with you. I'd be willing to sell mine for, say, five dollars." Often it was a deal.