At 72 University Place, overlooking the University Green, Williams Hall stands on a location of prominence between Billings Library and Old Mill. It was built in 1896 by the architect and engineering firm of Wilson Brothers of Philadelphia, PA.(1) A modern building in many ways, it was the first on campus to be wired for electricity. It was also equipped with state-of-the-art laboratories.(2) It is a sturdy fire-proof building of steel and brick construction, with a Barre granite base and ornate terra cotta trimmings.(3) Its design was meant to complement Old Mill building rather than overshadow it.(4)
Dr. Edward H. Williams and his wife provided the funds for the building, approximately $225,000.(5) Williams was a wealthy businessman who, with John H. Converse, was a partial owner of the Baldwin Locomotive Company of Philadelphia.(6) Converse Hall was being constructed to the east at roughly the same time and would have been visible from Williams.(7) Both Converse and Williams Halls were dedicated in a formal ceremony on June 23, 1896.(8)
It is interesting to note that while Dr. and Mrs. Williams originally hoped to provide the university with an art building, the president at the time (Matthew H. Buckham) convinced them to sponsor a hall for the sciences as this was needed more urgently.(9) Williams Science Hall serviced the physics, biology and chemistry departments.(10)
The benefactors wishes eventually prevailed. It housed numerous classrooms and was home to the Torrey and Frost herbariums, collections which catalogued Vermont biological specimens, as well as the C. G. Pringle herbarium, with over 50,000 specimens of North American plant life.(11) Today, the Pringle Herbarium is located in Torrey Hall. Williams Hall is currently home to the Art and Anthropology Departments, as well as the Francis Colburn Art Gallery.
(1) "Williams Hall," UVM Buildings, University of Vermont, http://www.uvm.edu/campus/williams/%20williamshistory.html.
(2) Jeffrey D. Marshall, Universitas Viridis Montis 1791-1991: An exhibition of documents and artifacts telling the story of the University of Vermont (Burlington: University of Vermont, 1991), 44.
(3) Charles Edwin Allen, About Burlington Vermont (Burlington: Hobart J. Shanley & Company, 1905), 44.
(4) "Local News," Burlington Free Press and Times, October 10, 1894.
(5) Robert V. Daniels, The University of Vermont: The first 200 years (Hanover: University of New England Press, 1991), 116.
(6) "Collection 1485: Baldwin Locomotive Works Records," The Historical Society of Pennsylvania, processing completed February 2005, http://hsp.org.
(7) Map of Burlington, (Burlington, VT: Sanborn Insurance Co., January 1900), from University of Vermont Bailey/Howe Library, Special Collections.
(8) Allen, 44.
(9) The Vermont Alumnus, January 1939, 1974.
(10) Allen, 42.
(11) Allen, 42.