Opened in 1903, Commons served for many years as Hamilton’s sole dining hall (despite lingering false rumors, because of its Gothic style complete with pointed windows and buttresses, that it was intended as a place of worship). Funds for construction came from three brothers, among them Alexander Coburn Soper, Class of 1867. Following his graduation from Hamilton, Soper moved from his native Rome, N.Y., to Chicago where he soon went to work for the Park & Soper Lumber Co., in which his father was a partner. In 1870, just one year before the Great Chicago Fire, the younger Soper organized a new company, Pond & Soper, to operate a planing mill. In 1883 he re-joined family members to form the Soper Lumber Co. The business grew to large proportions, their trade reaching from Massachusetts to Colorado. At the turn of the century, the Sopers joined with another timber-oriented family from Pennsylvania, the Wheelers, to form the Soper-Wheeler Co., which was moved to California where it operates today.
The Soper family — 15 of whose members attended Hamilton — has been extremely generous to the College throughout the years. Alexander Soper served on the board of trustees for 33 years until his death in 1930. The building was rededicated in honor of the Soper family after extensive modification and renovation in 1999.