Elm Street Houses (Wesley, Haven, Hopkins, Tenney, Sessions)
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When Smith College was founded, the Trustees were intent on making certain that the College was an active part of town life. As time progressed and the need for more land and student residences increased, the College found itself expanding along the south on Green Street and the west along Elm Street. Originally private residences, this series of houses was purchased over time by the College, which wished to draw all student housing under its control--something that could not happen while some students remained in off-campus housing.
Wesley House was originally the parsonage for the Methodist Church located at 84 Elm Street. Built in 1896, the College purchased the house and the church property in 1899. At this time, Haven House was also purchased by the College from the heirs of Charles B. Kingsley, a local businessman. Further up Elm Street stands Hopkins House (Gothic revival), formerly Miss Malby's, a local proprietor who boarded many a Smith College student. The College purchased this home in 1920. Along with the purchase of Look House (now Park Annex) and Tenney House (156 Elm Street), the College extended itself to Paradise Road and Elm Street. The next major student residence construction, the Quadrangle, would take place in the 1920s.
On the other side of Elm Street, the College managed to acquire Sessions House from Ruth Huntington Sessions in 1921. Built in 1725, it is perhaps the oldest College building and contains a secret staircase believed to have harbored slaves fleeing to the North. Sessions Annex (105 Elm Street) was purchased in 1969 and was originally known as the White House Inn. Constructed in 1872 by a New Hampshire native, the College used the White House Inn in a variety of capacities: as a guest house for visitors to campus, and then as a dormitory for male inter-college exchange students.
For over 50 years from its founding, a majority of Smith students did not live in campus housing. Despite an increase in construction of student residences, the College population grew so quickly that the College had to limit the number of students it could assign to on-campus housing. Fortunately, as the College was located within a residential section of Northampton, a large number of private residences opened their doors to Smith College students as boarders. It was not until the completion of the Quadrangle in 1936 that all Smith students lived in College owned houses. The sampling of houses noted above, along Elm Street, are significant for their architectural styles, as well as for the fact that the College was able to purchase these private residences, thus consolidating its real estate holdings and facilitating its growth.