Beloit College students once again call Emerson Hall “home.” After almost 40 years, the historic student residence hall built in 1897 is again part of the Beloit College campus, reopening with a ribbon cutting ceremony on Friday, August 19. Generous lead donations from Nancy Packard and Jim Packard (a college trustee), and additional generous donations from alumni Frances Trout Norgren’53, Robert Norgren’52, and Barbara Roth’37, allowed the college to regain ownership of the building in 2015 and begin renovations. Many other alumni and friends have also stepped in to help fund this endeavor.
The restoration of the parlor was possible from a group gift to honor the memory of Donna-Rae Cianciotto’70 who passed away in March 2011. This effort to honor Donna-Rae was led by her husband Philip Cianciotto; his daughter, Katherine-Rae Cianciotto; his mother, Martine Cianciotto, and their friends: Elizabeth Mercer Roseman’70 and Curtis Roseman; Ellen Huizenga Henert’70 and Marty Henert ’71; Robyn Facinelli Bishop’70 and Allen Bishop; and Anne Wilson-Dooley ’71.Though there is still much restoration work needing completion, 55 junior and senior students moved in to Emerson Hall as the first class to reside there since 1977.
The ribbon cutting ceremony and reception was attended largely by the Beloit College campus community, trustees, city officials, building donors, builders, and architects. The event included the unveiling of a bench and wall plaque handcrafted from the building’s original grand staircase and created by local woodworker Mike Truesdale, owner of Turtle Creek Woodworking. The pieces are dedicated to the building’s donors.Emerson Hall was named after Beloit College Professor Joseph Emerson, who laid its cornerstone on Nov. 19, 1897.
The building was originally the college’s only women’s dorm, but it became co-ed in the 1960s. The building closed in 1977 and was sold, with a right of reversion, in 1979, the same year that it was also placed on the National Register of Historic Places. Upon its sale by the college, Emerson was converted to an apartment complex that housed city residents until 2013 when a fire caused extensive damage and forced the evacuation of those residents. It was after this, and another slight disaster of freezing pipes, that the college was able to reacquire Emerson Hall.
In the Beloit College 1978 yearbook, a student mused about Emerson Hall’s closing:
“Emerson Hall, another relic, the Victorian hotel of the north end, that was once a stately and crowded home for underclass students, sits locked up in need of renovation, but awaiting destruction.The black wood piano, the grandfather clock, kissaten, the noisy hallways, even the clanking pipes are gone – all silent. Many people began their careers at Emerson. I was there where we grew up learning how to study, party, and live with others until the big move off campus.Emerson is lost to the times: too big, too old, and too expensive to heat. This building, open or closed, will retain its place in the Beloit community.”
Today, after almost 40 years, Beloit College students once again call Emerson Hall “home.”