Council of Independent Colleges Historic Campus Architecture Project


Smith Alumni House

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Institution Name: Alma College
Original/Historic Place Name: President's House
Location on Campus: Superior St.
Date(s) of Construction and Designer(s):
pre- 1894original purchase Unknown
Type of Place: Individual building
Style(s): (Glossary)
Foundation: field stone
Walls: wood (frame construction); wood lathe (walls)
Roof: shingle
pre- 1894private residence
ca. 1894-1927president's house
1999-present (2007)other (residence facilities for visiting alumni, scholars, and speakers)
1999-present (2007)alumni center (including offices for Alma Leadership Alliance)

Significance: architecture, history
Landmark designation:
Narrative: see below
References: see below

In Alma's early days the Smith Alumni House was the home of three of the College's presidents.
August F. Bruske, Alma's second president, purchased the property in 1894 from Dr. James Lancashire, son-in-law of philanthropist Ammi Wright, whose gift of a campus and two buildings had made the College's founding possible. When Dr. Bruske left Alma, the house was used by his successor, Thomas C. Blaisdell, and then by the College's fourth president, Harry Means Crooks, until the current President's House was constructed in 1927. The Board of Trustees purchased the property from Dr. Bruske in 1917.

After the Crooks family moved to the new President's House in 1927, the building at Superior and Philadelphia served as a residence for faculty members and later for students. In 1982 it was converted from a small residence for male students to the center for Alma's international students and programs. It was renamed the Kirk International Center in honor of Dr. Florence A. Kirk, professor emeritus of English from 1954-67, because of her extensive involvement in international education and her love of Chinese people and culture. Her devotion to multinational understanding and commitment to the study of languages and cultures was a living endorsement of international education.

Restored to its original state through the generosity of Art and Carra Smith (class of 1938 and 1942, respectively) and other alumni, the Smith Alumni House was dedicated at Homecoming 1999. The Alumni House has residence facilities for visiting alumni, scholars, and speakers, and it is also the headquarters for Alma's Alumni Relations Director, the Alumni Board, and the Alma Leadership Alliance.

I. Bibliographic sources:

Facilities Notebook Catalogue of Alma College. 1899. Archives, Alma College, Alma, MI.

Minutes of the Board of Trustees. n.d. Alma College, Alma, MI.

Within Our Bounds: A Centennial History of Alma College. [Alma, MI?: s.n., 1986].

II. Location of other data:
University: Library, Special Collections

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