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Hamilton Alumni Review
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Faces Behind the Façades

Buttrick Hall

Perhaps the building on campus that has undergone the most name changes — and “facelifts”— is Buttrick Hall. Completed in 1813 as a dining hall and kitchen (derisively nicknamed the “Banqueting Hall”), the building appeared much as it does today, save for a red stucco coating. After proving not to be a successful auxiliary enterprise, the College closed the facility in 1820. Miscellaneous occupants, including a cobbler and carpenter, set up shop in the building before 1834, when Horatio Gates Buttrick became superintendent of buildings and moved into the house with his family. In 1837, Oren Root, a young graduate of the Class of 1833, married the oldest of seven Buttrick girls. In 1850 he returned to the Hill as professor of mathematics, astronomy, mineralogy and geology, bringing with him his outstanding collection of minerals that were housed in the Commons refectory. The building became known as the Cabinet, complete with a recitation room, exhibit space and a room for the study of botany.

For the next 20 years the Cabinet was a scientific oasis in a staunchly classical college. Shortage of funds, however, kept the building in a state of disrepair until 1883 when James Knox, Class of 1830, gave funds for a major remodeling. The walls in front were raised to provide a second story, the whole capped by ornate wooden gables. Windows replaced the two front entrances and a larger central door opened on to the exhibit halls. Knox Hall, as it became known, retained its appearance for 40 years.

In 1925 the new Science Building opened and the museum was transported. The trustees soon decided to restore the exterior of the old Commons building to its original lines. The wooden superstructure, dormer windows, gables and central door were all cut away. By the end of 1926, renovations were complete and the interior refitted to house the offices of the College administration. Small rooms on the second floor were fashioned into a single hall with an arched ceiling where the trustees met. The trustees named the building Buttrick Hall after the 19th-century superintendent and grandfather of Elihu Root, who was born in one of its second-floor bedrooms.

Buttrick Hall
Buttrick Hall

Cupola