By the time the venerable three-story, wood-frame dwelling at 1011 Indiana Street formally became a University of Kansas residence hall in 1942, it had already earned a place in KU student housing history as the home of the “Men of 1011.”
From 1933-39, this pioneering group of independent and non-fraternity male undergraduates made 1011 Indiana into Mount Oread’s first so-called “semi-organized” house. Offering low-cost, close-to-campus quarters and a tight-knit communal living environment, the 1011 model, so to speak, would be emulated by dozens of other similar housing concerns – from autonomous student-run co-ops to University-owned scholarship halls – during the ensuing two decades.
In the summer of 1942, the University of Kansas Endowment Association acquired the house at 1011 Indiana. It was reopened as a men’s student residence by the start of the fall semester. Most of the original 23 inhabitants were KU freshmen football players. On October 2, 1942, the home was officially named Hopkins Hall.
Considering the new hall’s early gridiron complement, the choice of namesake seems equally fitting. For beyond serving the University almost 50 years (1889-1937) as a professor of English, Dr. Edwin M. Hopkins also organized KU’s first official football team and, what’s more, coached these Jayhawkers (as they were then known) to an undefeated inaugural season in 1891. Additionally, the Princeton-educated Hopkins taught one of the first journalism courses at KU, founded debating societies, literary organizations and athletic clubs, staged the University’s first dramatic plays, and was a nationally-renowned pedagogue and an accomplished choir leader and church organist to boot.
Yet while Hopkins Hall retained the surname of this “Grand Old Man of KU” throughout the entirety of its University-owned existence, 1011 Indiana Street would only house male students (football players or otherwise) during its first semester of operation. Beginning in the spring of 1943, Hopkins Hall would serve as a women’s residence until it was disbanded at the end of the 1954-55 academic year.
Known for its spartan accommodations and arctic-like sleeping conditions, Hopkins Hall was admittedly short on luxuries. Nonetheless, as revealed in a series of reminiscences collected by the KU Department of Student Housing in 2002, life at 1011 Indiana offered a supportive environment and fostered strong friendships, bonds that proved unforgettable for those who once called it home.
Speaking for many, another former resident not only credited Hopkins with helping a “poor girl” afford a college education. She also saw her time there as having “opened up the world for me.”
The namesake of this “interesting old house” arrived on Mount Oread in 1889 as a 27-year-old assistant professor of English. A native New Yorker and former country schoolteacher, Edwin Mortimer Hopkins had earned his AB from Princeton University the previous year, graduating Phi Beta Kappa. (He would also later take MA and PhD degrees from Princeton as well, in 1890 and 1894 respectively.)
The catalyst for Hopkins’ decision to leave the East Coast for Kansas was a chance encounter prior to the start of the fall 1889 semester. According to the generally accepted version of events, Charles S. Gleed, a KU alum and member of the Board of Regents, found himself aboard a train chatting with an unnamed Princeton University professor. Mentioning the fact that KU had a vacancy in its English department, Gleed reportedly asked his traveling companion whether there might be “an eligible candidate at Princeton.”
As related 50 years after the fact in the Graduate Magazine, “Princeton’s five graduate students in English were told about the opening.” While most of them “thought Kansas was too far west and the dangers from Indians possibly too great,” one was evidently a bit more adventurous. “When all the others declined,” young Edwin Hopkins later recalled, “I came with the express instructions from our faculty advisor that I might just as well come out and see what Kansas was like. If I did not like it, I could [always] come back east again.”
As it turned out, Hopkins did indeed like the Sunflower State. In fact, he remained a part of the University of Kansas for the next 48 years. During this tenure, which lasted from 1889 until his retirement in 1937, Professor Hopkins – described as “good humored and keen of wit, both highly tolerant and highly intellectual” by KU historian Clifford Griffin – amassed a remarkably impressive list of accomplishments.
In the scholastic realm, Hopkins was instrumental in founding the National Council of Teachers of English and the American College Quill Club. He was among the first and most sought-after participants in the University of Kansas Extension Division public lecture programs. He chaired KU’s Department of Rhetoric and English Language and helped develop the University’s earliest journalism courses. In between, Hopkins also found time to assist KU students in establishing Sachem, the senior men’s honor society; a poetry club called the Rhadamanthi Society; and a drama group that put on the University’s first student plays.
Then there was the Kansas Society of Mayflower Descendents, which Hopkins set up, along with a KU faculty basketball team and the famed Oread Bicycle Club, which counted University Chancellor Francis H. Snow (1890-1901) among its most enthusiastic and visible members.
Yet in the extracurricular arena, perhaps Dr. Hopkins’ most prominent achievement was the 7-0-1 record he turned in during his one and only season (1891-92) as KU’s first official football coach. Through his efforts, too, the Western Inter-State University Football Association – forerunner of the Missouri Valley Conference (and subsequently the Big Eight and now Big XII Conferences as well) – was formed back in 1892.
Needless to say, as Chancellor Deane W. Malott (1939-51) would observe upon Hopkins’ death in 1946 at the age of 83, “Few men have meant so much to the progress of this University. His record of ‘firsts’ gives evidence to a vision and breadth of interest which has characterized his service to KU and endeared him to his colleagues, his students and his friends.”
Fortunately, Dr. Hopkins had lived to see, in at least one instance, the thanks of a grateful University bestowed upon him. On October 2, 1942, roughly two weeks after fall semester classes began, KU announced that its newest men’s student residence at 1011 Indiana Street – a property just recently acquired by the University of Kansas Endowment Association – was being named Hopkins Hall in his honor. (Whether Edwin Hopkins himself was in town to appreciate the accolade in person is unclear. After all, noted the University Daily Kansan at the time, the nearly 80-year-old retiree still enjoyed “exploring, camping and fishing in the Rocky Mountains.”)
With respect to the original 23 residents of Hopkins Hall, the majority’s sport of choice was football. Although some, like Bernard “Pete” Passman of Brooklyn, New York, played on the Jayhawker varsity squad, most, he recalled, were “freshman football players from Kansas and other nearby states.”
Whatever their status, each was treated kindly by Miss Annie Moore, the Hopkins housemother who “supervised the cooking, cleaning and maintaining the house.” She, along with the designated student proctor, KU senior Maurice Baringer, was tasked with ensuring that the men did all their assigned chores, a shared housekeeping regimen that also reigned at the four other KU men’s residence halls in existence at the time – Battenfeld, Templin, Carruth and Jolliffe.
“Hopkins Hall was an old house,” remembered Passman, then an architecture student, “and had three floors. The main floor had a large living room with a fireplace, a dining room, a kitchen and [also contained] Mother Moore’s quarters.” What it sorely lacked, he recalled – sounding a complaint that would eventually be echoed by countless other students over the next 13 years and beyond – was central heating, forcing the men (and later the women) to sleep fully-clothed on the second-floor sleeping porch. “It was brutally cold that winter,” Passman added. “We had icicles on our noses when we woke up in the morning.”
Given that Pete Passman’s personal retrospective is the only reminiscence collected by the Department of Student Housing pertaining to Hopkins Hall’s inaugural fall 1942 semester, his reflections might not be considered universally representative, except perhaps on the frigid conditions front. But among his vivid and “very fond memories” are of the “snipe hunt trick” that the “Kansas farm boys” once played on him (the New York “city slicker”) to his everlasting embarrassment. “We also,” he recalled, “drank sloe gin and smoked Missouri crook cigars. When Mother Moore called at the foot of the stairs [that] she was coming up, we threw the bottles up in the attic and opened the windows for the cigar smoke [to escape.] We were not allowed to smoke in our rooms for the fire danger,” Passman explained, adding: “Those were the days.”
Those were also the days of the Second World War, and Passman, who was in the ROTC, left the University after his single semester at 1011 Indiana to join the US Marine Corps. Seeing combat in the Pacific Theater, including the amphibious landings at Peleliu and Okinawa, he survived the war but did not end up returning to Mount Oread.
Passman, of course, was just one member of the massive male-student exodus from KU and other colleges and universities across the country that would occur during the World War II years. Throughout this period, too, many academic institutions were mobilized in support of the war effort. At KU, there were some 800 men of the Army Specialized Training Program in Lindley Hall, and around 500 machinists’ mates from the Navy’s Great Lakes Training Station taking classes in Fowler Shops. Many large Oread-area fraternity and sorority houses were also transformed into temporary barracks and mess halls.
As for Hopkins Hall, it too went to war. Beginning in the spring of 1943, 1011 Indiana Street housed several successive small groups of women students training to become aeronautical technicians. Run by the University’s Department of Aeronautical Engineering in conjunction with four major aircraft companies – Boeing, Beech, Cessna and North American Aviation, Inc. – this program was designed to “help solve the critical industrial manpower problem [then] facing the nation and to provide basic training useful in the post-war period.”
By the time the 1944-45 academic year began, Hopkins had reverted back to a regular women’s dormitory and would annually accommodate anywhere from 10-20 undergraduates until the residence hall’s ultimate closing in 1955.
A member of the 14-woman complement in 1944-45, Sue Sackett Denes described herself as a “transfer student [who was] ready to get down to business and get this thing over with.” Among the conditions she and her fellow residents had to endure at 1011 Indiana was the “strong odor of mildew on the sleeping porch, which drove me nuts.”
Then there was that bone-chilling first winter, the single second-floor bathroom – as well as the lone house telephone – that all the women had to share, not to mention the “bird lice” that once invaded the third-floor closets. These, however, were decidedly “minor inconveniences,” particularly when compared to what America’s military forces were suffering overseas. “We were now into the third year of WWII,” Denes added, “and most of us were dedicated to ‘doing our bit.’”
The women of Hopkins Hall were, as Kathleen McKinney Whitmer recalled, “allowed to cook a little in the first-floor kitchen and use the dining room.” But most of the time they trekked up the Hill three times a day to eat either on campus at the Kansas Union or at Corbin Hall, KU’s original women’s dormitory. (Needless to say, Whitmer exclaimed, “We had great legs!”) Sometimes, too, they elected to “dash across the backyard and the alley to another small residence hall” at 1014 Mississippi Street known as Monchonsia. “We must have been quite a sight,” wrote Maureen Harris, “as many made the morning run in curlers and robes.”
According to one former resident who asked not to be personally identified, an even more incredible sight appeared “one very warm Friday evening in May 1952.” As her story goes, “Just to the south of Hopkins Hall [at 1043 Indiana] was a dormitory [known as Varsity House], which housed the varsity football players. They were gentlemen and never bothered us but would often sit on their porch in the evenings watching the passing parade of young co-eds.” Deciding that night to “put on a show for them,” Cherepy recounted how she and her fellow Hopkins Hall residents first donned swimsuits and then, over them, put on elaborate costumes that included “long gloves, hats, coats, high-heeled shoes, sweaters and sometimes a bra and pants.”
“We next hung a sheet over a window,” this former resident continued, “placed a bright light” behind it, and then proceeded to perform “stripping routines to loud music in this bright area casting our shadows on the sheet. We were flamboyant, scintillating coeds each with a slightly different act, which were followed by great peels of laughter. The men,” not surprisingly, “cheered and shouted,” perhaps unaware that the women’s bathing suits remained on throughout each one’s silhouetted “show.” The performances did not, however, last too long, “as we feared the head counselor would catch us and report us to some unknown person who would [almost certainly] cause us trouble.” In any event, “The evening was great fun,” she added, “and we giggled about it for weeks.”
Although having lived at 1011 Indiana during slightly less risqué times, Geraldine Glaser (1946-47) nonetheless appreciated Hopkins Hall’s lack of strict “regimentation.” As with other “small residence halls” at KU, there was “more freedom within the general rules for women at that time, and a greater feeling of belonging.” Indeed, for Elaine C. Thurn, another 1940s-era resident, the opportunity to live and become friends with “a very eclectic group of girls” was among the highlights of her own Hopkins Hall experience.
Especially memorable was Mary Jo Fullbright Swoyer’s stay at 1011 Indiana. “I became engaged while at Hopkins so it really had a special meaning for me.” Indeed, “In January 2002,” she was pleased to report, “I will have been married 50 years, so there must have been some magic in that old building.”
Unfortunately for Hopkins Hall itself, though, whatever supernatural forces may have been at work, they could not extend its KU residential life indefinitely. As Fred McElhenie, the University’s associate director of student housing, noted, “With the advent of modern residence halls, Hopkins Hall ceased operations at the end of the 1954-55 academic year.” Its name however, lives on in the Lewis Hall dormitory, where the sixth floor has been designated the Hopkins floor.
On another positive note, the house known from 1942-55 as Hopkins Hall has so far been spared the destruction that has been the fate of so many of the Mount Oread-area residence halls of this time period. Upon releasing it from student housing service, the University promptly sold the property to the Alpha Kappa Alpha sorority, whose KU members called it home until 1969. Following the AKAs were the women of Alpha Epsilon Phi who occupied it during the 1969-70 academic year. Since then, this “interesting old house” at 1011 Indiana Street has been under private ownership and stands to this day – a longevity that suggests there may yet still be some magic to be found.
John H. McCool
Department of History
University of Kansas