Aston Hall Centennial

100 Years as a Hall of Residence for Millikin Women

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“Students Can Board Themselves”

When the Decatur College & Industrial School of the James Millikin University first opened its doors to students in September 1903, the over 500 students who showed up that first day lived somewhere off-campus. There were no residence halls when Millikin began and students who didn't already reside locally were encouraged to "locate in private families or in clubs," like the YMCA. (see below, from the first Bulletin course catalog)

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JMU Bulletin Catalog July 1903 pages 7-8

”University to Have Dormitory”

Millikin University completed three academic years and was entering its fourth in the fall of 1906 when the following announcement appeared in the student newspaper, The Decaturian.

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The Decaturian October 1906 page 7

As the article stated, James Millikin and his wife Anna joined architect B. S. Brooks in touring other University and college dormitories to get ideas. The tours and discussion the three had resulted in the sketch below.

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Original drawing of proposed Woman's Dorm for Millikin by Decatur architect, B.S. Brooks

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The Decaturian February 1907 page 3

With construction underway as the 1906-1907 academic year was coming to a close, the Bulletin catalog for the next academic year went out with hopes of attracting student boarders to the new Woman's Hall.

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JMU Bulletin Catalog May 1907 page 31 and pages 42-43

”Between Thirty and Forty Girls Have Rooms”

As the 1907-1908 academic year began in the Fall of 1907, the Woman's Hall was opened for female students and the Millikin University campus entered its fifth year with its first student residents.

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From the 1908 Millidek page 58

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The Decaturian September 1907 page 10

According to the original roll book for 1907-08, thirty-eight students were listed with an address of Woman's Hall. Most of the students were either Freshman at Millikin University or were enrolled in the Academy, Millikin's preparatory high school that was part of Millikin from its beginnings until the 1920s. (Those listed below as "Special" were not in a degree or certificate program and were only enrolled in specific courses, usually in the Fine Arts or Music Departments)

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Ruth Bicknell (from 1908 Millidek) Grace Bottrell (from 1090 Millidek)

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Lucile Logan  (Freshman 1911)  Ruth McMennamy (Academy)

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Anna New (Freshman)  Marie Scott (Academy)

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Ruth Stevens (Junior 1910) Pearl Tippett (Freshman 1911)

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Mabel Williams (Freshman 1911)

Not Pictured:
Cecile Allentharp (Senior)
Mary Armstrong (Academy)
Lita Bane (Freshman)
Geneva Bane (Freshman)
Edna Beckett (Sophomore)
Myrtle Black (Academy)
Bess Cooper (Academy)
Nina Crigler (Junior)
Lois Crowder (Academy)
D. Winifred Davis (Academy)
Mabel Edmonson (Academy)
Bessie Grant (Freshman)
Maude Humphrey (Academy)
Lelia Lamb (Sophomore)
Mabel Lamb (Junior)
Elizabeth Lemmon (Soph.)
Margaret Lingham (Academy)
Ruth Peck (Freshman)
Anna Phillips (Academy)
Mattie Pollard (Special)
Maude Prater (Freshman)
Lelleau Schulze (Academy)
Nellie Taylor (Academy)
Lucile Taylor (Special)
Muriam Valentine (Academy)
Helen Voris (Freshman)
Helen Wagner (Freshman)
Wilma Walker (Special)
Alice William (Academy)

From the beginning of the school in 1903, there had been male and female students and plenty of tales of courting, even Millikin marriages. The opening of a Woman's dormitory meant some of that courting would move onto the campus, and this was not lost on the students who wrote for the Dec back in 1907. The September 1907 article above also pointed out that Messers Shumway and Bricker were the first "gentlemen callers," to a dorm in Millikin history.

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Hiram Shumway Ward Bricker

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Roll Call of Woman’s Hall Regulars Picture

This listing of male students and faculty members (above) is found at the back of the Millidek for 1908 (the first year of the Woman's Hall). It is in a section filled with other humorous listings but it not known just what it meant to be a regular or any of the other titles ordered in the listing.

”A Thoroughly Womanly Woman”

With the opening of a woman's dorm came the need for a Dean of Women to supervise it. Lucy Valentine was hired from the University of Minnesota.

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The Decaturian September 1907 page 6

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Dean Valentine's office inside the Woman's Hall (from 1909 Millidek)

”With the Permission of the Dean…”

With women residents came the need for a set of rules. The earliest pamphlets on the dormitory contained a description of the facilities, floor plans, rates, and of course, rules for residents. The twenty-one rules for original Woman's Hall residents were as follows:

Above: From 1908 pamphlet page 1

  1. The hours for meals are: Week Days: Breakfast 7:00am, Luncheon 12:30pm, Dinner 6:00pm. Sundays: Breakfast 8:00am, Dinner 1:30pm, Tea 5:30pm.
  2. Except in cases of serious or protracted sickness, a charge of ten cents each will made for meals sent to student’s rooms. In such cases trays must be taken to rooms and returned to the kitchen only by the housekeeper at the direction of the Dean.
  3. Permission must be obtained from the Dean before taking a guest to a meal. A charge of 25 cents for each meal will be made.
  4. All students unless absent as provided in other regulations, will be expected to be in the Hall not later than 7:30pm
  5. All students going out for the evening must ask permission of the Dean and have the chaperon or escort approved. Students must also register time of departure and destination and, on returning, the time of arrival.
  6. Soft slippers should be worn after 7:30pm
  7. Study hours are from 8:00am-Noon; 1:30-4:30pm; and 7:30-10pm. At these hours students are expected to study in their own rooms and to assist in keeping the house quiet.
  8. Students will not be permitted to entertain student guests in their rooms during study-hours.
  9. Bathtubs must not be used during study-hours
  10. With the permission of the Dean, students may receive callers on Saturday and Sunday evenings. Such guests are expected to leave at ten.
  11. Students cannot entertain guest in their rooms over night without the permission of the Dean. Other rooms will be furnished if practicable, for which a charge of 25 cents will be made.
  12. Students must turn the lights out on leaving their rooms. All lights must be out at 10:30pm
  13. College functions close not later than 10:30pm, the time for annual functions being extended one hour. Residents of the Hall are expected to return immediately at the close of such functions.
  14. No inflammable cleaning fluids may be used nor cooking done in any of the students’ rooms.
  15. Washing of clothing in the bathrooms is not allowed. With the permission of the Dean, washing may be done in the laundry.
  16. Tacks and pins must not be driven into the wall, or woodwork; picture moulding is provided for hanging wall decorations.
  17. Students will be responsible for daily care of their own rooms. In addition each room will be thoroughly cleaned by the housekeeper with the vacuum cleaner once each month.
  18. The telephone may be used by students with reasonable frequency. They will not be called to the telephone during meal or study hours except in cases of urgent need.
  19. Students will be expected to pay for all damages which may occur in their rooms.
  20. The institution will not be responsible for money or valuables which are left exposed in rooms.
  21. At all times and in all parts of the building residents will be expected to observe quiet and decorum, and every effort should be made to protect the rights of fellow students.

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From 1908 pamphlet page 1

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From 1908 pamphlet page 2

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First and Second Floor original floor plan

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Third and Fourth Floor original floor plan

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From the 1909 Millidek page 85 ~ The Parlor (room 101) with its original decor

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From the 1908 Millidek page 59 ~ view from Reception room into parlor and from Dean's room across from parlor.

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(Undated) shows early furnishings of Aston Hall room

”Four Hundred Guests Gathered…”

Although the Woman's Hall had opened to students in the fall of 1907, it was not officially dedicated until November 12th, 1908 at a ceremony attended by 400 guests, including the Millikins.

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Original invitation to attend the dedication

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Article from The Decaturian December 1908 page 19

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From the 1909 Millidek page 82

”The 'Woman's Hall' is No More”

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From The Decaturian January 1910 page 13

Although it apparently had been intended from the beginning, the Woman's Hall did not take on the name Aston Hall until December of 1909. Aston was Anna B. Millikin's maiden name.

James Millikin had died in March of 1909.

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Anna B. Aston Millikin

”Moving Aston Hall Girls to Fraternity Houses”

In early 1943, the United States called up all of its military reserves to fight in World War II, many of them young men studying at colleges and universities like Millikin. As the Millikin campus saw its male student population dwindle to nearly nothing, the campus prepared for an influx of Army Air Corps cadets who would be coming through Millikin as part of their training. Millikin, like many college campuses across the country, had been selected as a site for a College Training Detachment to help train the huge influx of reserves that had just been called up (for more info on the 78th CTD, see the Millikin During World War II exhibit).

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From The Decaturian 12 February 1943 page 1

In 1943, Aston Hall was still the only residence hall on campus and so when it became official that the Army was coming, plans were made to move the women of Aston into the Fraternity houses near campus. Most of the houses had been nearly vacated by the call-up of reserves in January, so the remaining male residents prepared to find other accommodations.

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The Decaturian 26 February 1943 page 1

At the last minute, and after many of the women were completely packed, the move was called off, and the first group of Army cadets arrived in March and were housed in the Old Gym until wooden barracks could be erected on campus. As the article below states, it was not exactly a smooth transition to settle back into rooms.

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The Decaturian 5 March 1943 page 3-4

”A New Woman's Dorm”

As Aston Hall completed a half-century of housing Millikin women, plans were made to add a new Women's dorm just to the south of Aston Hall. The two would then be connected and when the newer one was completed, Aston would undergo renovations.

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20 May 1960 page 1 1908 Millidek image page 43 of Aston Hall and today's Shilling Hall at left

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From the 1908 Millidek page 43, showing the open area south of Aston Hall (right)

This photo (above), taken in 1957 from the south porch of Aston shows the area south, looking out across the Wabash tracks toward the corner of Oakland and West Main St.

The new Woman's Dorm, Walker Hall, would connect to Aston Hall right at this porch, which was removed.

One of the iconic architectural features of Millikin, the south porch entrance to Aston Hall, was lost when the new Woman's Dorm was added in 1960.

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From the 1910s, the south porch of Aston Hall

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From the 1909 Millidek page 86, women on the south porch

Ground-breaking and construction went as scheduled, and Walker Hall, as the new Women's Hall, was named in honor of Ruth Walker (a long-time director of housing). It opened in the Fall of 1961.

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Students watch from the south porch as the ground is prepared

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The foundation of Walker Hall and the south porch already removed

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Walker Hall under construction

Aston Hall Interiors

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The parlor room in the 1930s

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1980s Aston Hall lounge

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1935 Herald & Review photo showing Aston Hall room furnishings

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1940s Aston Hall room and students

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1950s Aston Hall room and students

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1960s Aston Hall room and students

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1980s Aston Hall room and students

Aston Hall Exteriors

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1909 Millidek image page 83 of Woman's Hall showing south porch

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Undated winter image of Aston from NE with Walker and Blackburn at left

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1960s overhead of Aston with SUB at left

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1960s image of Aston from West, with Mueller and SUB in foreground left

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1960s image of Aston Hall from NE with Walker and Blackburn at left

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Aston Hall in winter used for 1986 Christmas Card

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1980s image of Aston Hall from NE with Mills in foreground and Walker and Blackburn at left

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Undated image of students outside west entrance of Aston Hall

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Undated image of student reading in Aston Hall window

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Undated image of Aston Hall fire escape with student looking out window

Aston Remodeling

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Undated image of summer paint crew in Aston Hall

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Scaffold outside Aston Hall 1992 image

This Exhibit was researched and developed using source materials found within the Millikin University Archives & Special Collections.

This page created Jan 18, 2008 by Todd Rudat
Last Modified on Feb 26, 2008
Copyright: Millikin University Board of Trustees