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    • Construction of the library, then the “Learning Center,” circa 1970.

    • An inauspicious beginning: The WCAC under construction in 1988.

The History Behind Hopkins Buildings

Vivian Wang ’23
One of the most defining aspects of Hopkins is the campus: Distinguished brick buildings sit scattered atop the hill, surrounded by trees and expansive athletic fields.
Each building has its own unique history. Some, like Baldwin Hall, have been an integral part of the Hopkins campus for almost a century, while more recent additions, such as Thompson Hall, have only been in existence for about a decade or so.

Baldwin Hall was the first building on the current campus. Prior to the Hill, Hopkins, which began as an old schoolhouse, was located near the New Haven Green. George Lovell, headmaster at the time, wanted a fresh start; in 1925, Lovell bought a small patch of land near Forest Road to establish a new campus. Hopkins alum Henry Murphy, who designed the building, incorporated two key features: Baldwin’s signature neo-colonial look, and the cornerstone, a historical artifact that reflects Hopkins’s past. School Archivist Thom Peters says, “in [Baldwin’s cornerstone] are the cornerstones from the Hopkins buildings built on the original campus. You can see stones with different dates on them.”

Baldwin Hall originally served as an “all-purpose” building and became the center of student activity. Peters says, “It was essentially a building that did everything. It had classrooms, lunch rooms, a library, and an assembly [area].” They were able to fit everything inside the small building because “the school wasn’t big in the 1920s. There were only around a hundred students, so the needs weren’t that [great].”

Baldwin underwent a series of repairs in order to keep up with the needs of the school. Chief Financial and Operating Officer David Baxter notes that “Baldwin Hall is the building that has undergone the most renovations in its nearly 100 year life.” In the 1960s and 1970s, the northern and southern wings were constructed, which added the Calarco library and science classrooms. Baldwin’s long list of interior renovations continued to grow as more buildings were incorporated into the campus.

The Kneisel Squash center, previously referred to as the “Field House,” was built about ten years after Baldwin and Hopkins House. Douglas Orr, well known for his work on The Eli and the Robert A. Taft Memorial, was charged with designing the arched building that would become Hopkins’ first gymnasium. In the absence of other facilities, athletic practice rooms, art studios, and a library shared this one space. It was not until 2010 that the building was officially designated a squash practice center.

In 1958, Lovell Hall, named in honor of George Lovell, was constructed to serve as a performing arts center and dining hall. Assistant Director of Admission Kate Higgins ’80 recalls how the building looked during her time as a student: “[Drama teachers] Michael Calderone’s and Hope Hartup’s classrooms were the dining hall, and the theater area was where Assembly and dances were held.”

Thirty years after Lovell was established, the Walter Camp Athletic Center (WCAC) opened its doors to Hopkins athletes in need of a pool and larger practice spaces. The WCAC was named after Hopkins Alum Walter Camp, who “introduced some of the basic rules of football, as we understand it today, such as the scrimmage line and the quarterback,” says Peters. Math teacher Kevin Hart, who witnessed the construction of the WCAC, believes “it had the biggest impact” on student life at Hopkins. Prior to the WCAC, the Field House was “the only indoor space available on campus for all the athletic programs.” Higgins also comments on the benefits of having an expanded athletic center: “Swimmers and varsity basketball players no longer had to travel to facilities in downtown New Haven each day ... It made student academic and extracurricular life so much richer.”

Another building that left a profound impact on the school was the Malone Science Center, built in 1999. The Board of Trustees realized that the science laboratories in Baldwin lacked both the space and equipment needed for modern science education. With the financial assistance of John Malone ’59, Hopkins converted the empty patch of land sitting above Baldwin into a science building. The construction of the Malone Science Center played a pivotal role in transforming not only the Hopkins campus, but the curriculum itself. According to Peters, establishing Malone “put us on the map for science education.” Malone also allowed for the “departmentalization of our curriculum,” since different departments now had designated buildings.

As classrooms and learning areas expanded, so did student spaces. The creation of Heath Commons in 2003 provided the campus with “a wonderful place for student-faculty informal interactions,” says Peters. Named after longtime teacher and archivist John Heath, the building was intended to give students an additional spot to congregate, relax, and do homework. Previously, students could only spend their free time in the library. Now, Baxter explains, “you can get a muffin from the Cafe, buy a Hopkins sweatshirt, meet with a Head Adviser, have lunch, [and] hang with friends,” all in the same building. Peters explains how Heath also included, on the first floor, a new, modern dining hall, which enabled Hopkins to “hire a larger food service group and serve lunches to more students.” On the upper floor, the cafe became an additional area where “informal interactions [could] occur—not only between students and faculty, but among the faculty as well.”

Constructed in 2010, Thompson Hall is the most recent addition to the Hopkins campus. Though Thompson’s exterior blends in with the neo-colonial style, the interior featured more modern facilities, which made it “the largest project in school history in terms of costs and investment,” according to Baxter. With a new building on the hill, the Hopkins Art Department was finally able to move out of the Field House and enjoy the privileges of having large classrooms and spacious studios. Thompson also became the central hub for junior schoolers, and paved the way for more Harkness-style rooms.

Renovation is an ongoing process at Hopkins, and more refurbishments are planned for the future. In 2019, Baxter, Head of School Kai Bynum, and Director of Facilities Liz Climie collaborated on a facilities Master Plan, which includes a long list of renovations that Hopkins plans to implement in the next few years. Baxter hopes to have “a new Academic and Performing Arts Center at the Lovell Hall site [that will] offer additional academic space and a theater venue.” According to Baxter, the list also includes new plans for a modernized Athletic Center, since the school recognizes that “athletics, sports medicine, wellness and health and fitness have evolved significantly.”
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