Morton Hall

Morton Hall

1936, 1994
College Road
Hampden-Sydney, VA 23943

Morton Hall was named for Captain John Morton, who had fought in the French and Indian War, and who was among the original trustees of the College appointed in 1775. It houses most of Hampden-Sydney's departments in the social sciences and humanities. Morton Hall is the only building on campus which was named as it was being built, since it was totally paid for by Samuel P. Morton of Baltimore, great-great-grandson of the Captain. (The portraits of both gentlemen hang in Morton.) The gift of $75,000 for its construction was the largest individual gift ever received by Hampden-Sydney up to that time. As Dr. Graves Thompson 1927 wrote in The Record:


When the announcement of the gift was made on December 17, 1935, in the college chapel (in those remote days the student body assembled each weekday in McIlwaine Hall for a brief morning worship service), the chamber erupted with applause. It was a scene 'that will never be forgotten,' one eyewitness wrote. A cheerleader arose and called for a Tiger 'that Mr. Morton will hear in Baltimore.' (Today, it might be noted, the students indulge in no organized cheering.)

The siting of Morton Hall, as the tale has been handed down, disturbed a master but visionary plan that had been drawn up for the placement of new buildings on the campus.

Captain John Morton There was to be a circle of buildings entered by way of the Memorial Gate, which still stands as the only monument of that aborted plan. At the far end of the circle, facing the Gate, was to be built a new library. However, Mr. Morton felt that this site was ideal for the location of his proffered building. So that is where Morton Hall now stands, strategically located between the only two dormitories then in existence, Cushing and Venable.

On March 8, 1936, Dr. Whiting wrote to Dr. McWhorter (a former professor at H-S): 'The plans for the new "Morton Hall" have been tentatively drawn and adopted. To my amazement, no provision has been made for an auditorium. The powers that be have been anxious for some time to do away with our Chapel Service, and I greatly fear that this is a deliberate scheme to kill Chapel. Of course, the present chapel cannot hold our student body, so some students have been excused from attendance of necessity; but I had taken it for granted that the new building would provide ample facilities for this purpose.... Instead of having an auditorium they have filled the place with professors' offices and toilets. [Dr. Whiting never did accept an office in the new building. As in McIlwaine Hall, his classroom also served as his office. Nor had McIlwaine provided such niceties as toilets.] I hope in some respect the plans may be altered and modified, though I do not hope for a chapel.'

A story about the stone facades at the entrances to the building goes that Mr. Morton had set his final contribution for the building. When presented with the plans for the building, he saw that the cost of the stone facades was over and above that figure. He returned the plans and said that he felt the College should provide for the facades. Mr. Atkinson, business manager of the College, responded, "Why, Mr. Morton, we wouldn't think of putting our little rocks in front of your nice building." Mr. Morton sighed and upped his contribution.

Morton Hall was renovated in the summer of 1994. The central facade was moved forty feet forward and the space within used to accommodate two staircases, an elevator, two offices, and the Classics Library.