More Than Lore

Chapter 11: A Dream Come True

Marion Talbot

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THE composite mind of the thirty-five hundred women who by 1914 had received degrees from the University of Chicago would have a memory of the location of their physical-education headquarters and gymnasium in the following terms: October, 1892, a room on the fourth floor of Cobb Hall; November, 1892—June, 1901, the north end of the temporary library building on the present site of Hutchinson Court; June, 1901—October, 1901, a frame building on Ellis Avenue; October, 1901 —October, 1902, the Sunday-school room of the Hyde Park Baptist Church; Autumn Quarter, 1902, the south end of the old library building; Winter Quarter, 1903, the gymnasium of the School of Education; April, 1903-1916, Lexington gymnasium.

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The many discomforts and difficulties which were met by the students did not dampen their interest but rather added ardor to their desire to help secure an adequate building for a gymnasium and other purposes. Through penny races, circuses, and varied ventures they made brave efforts to raise the needed money. During this disheartening period, the Woman's Union, the Young Women's Christian League, the Women's Athletic Association, the Neighborhood Clubs, as well as smaller groups, developed a spirit of friendliness and of enterprise, as well as frequently of merriment, which was destined to be recognized in a munificent manner.

The story of how the donor was interested and. the gift secured was a genuine romance, and the few persons who were privileged to hear it from the lips of the President's wife were fortunate indeed. Mrs. Judson had frequently told of her desire to have an adequate woman's building which would give the facilities to the women which Hutchinson Hall, Bartlett Gymnasium, and the Reynolds Club had given to men since 1903. Very late one evening in May, 1913, Mrs. Judson, feeling restless and unable to sleep, had a

( 185) sudden thought. She recalled the recent death of Mrs. La Verne W. Noyes, a personal friend; and like a flash it occurred to her that Mr. Noyes might be interested in presenting a Woman's Building to the University as a memorial to his wife. She seated herself quickly at her desk, wrote a note to Mr. Noyes laying the suggestion before him, threw on a wrapper, cast the fateful document into the letter box on a nearby corner, and hastened back into the house. It was the witching hour, darkness and quiet were her only witnesses, and, above all, the President was out of the city. Alarm seized her, for it was an act of temerity; but contrition was futile, the deed had been done. In fear and trembling and yet in hopeful expectancy, she awaited the reply. It came by the return mail, asking for an interview, the result of which placated any reproach the President might have felt inclined to feel when on his return he learned what had happened.

A few whispered confidences, an air of great mystery, and speeches with enigmatical phrases at the annual dinner of the Woman's Athletic Association in June, 1913, were the precursors of the President's stirring announcement before the

( 186) vast crowd assembled for Convocation in Hutchinson Court on June 10, 1913, that Mr. La Verne W. Noyes had made a gift, as a memorial to his wife, to take the shape of a building devoted to the social and physical life of the women of the University. The enthusiasm of the women was intense, and the sympathetic applause of the men was a gratifying gauge of the unified spirit of the University. "The good of each is the good of all" was the note one could hear resound through the tumult of cheers and clapping. Mr. Noyes's letter of presentation read as follows:

1450 Lake Shore Drive Chicago,

May 31, 1913

Dr. Harry Pratt Judson
President, University of Chicago
58th Street and Ellis Avenue, Chicago


Pursuant to our conversation, I write to say that I will pay to the University of Chicago, in instalments as hereinafter mentioned, a total sum of Three Hundred Thousand Dollars ($300,000.00) for the construction, on a site to be agreed upon, on the campus of the University of Chicago, in this city, of a building to be used as a social center and gymnasium for the women of the University. It is understood that this building is to be a memorial to my deceased

(187) wife, Ida E. S. Noyes, and is to be known as the "Ida Noyes Hall."

The character and plans of the building and the construction of it I shall leave to the discretion of the Trustees of the University, but I shall be glad to co-operate with them in any way that seems desirable.

   Yours very truly,
[Signed] LA VERVE Novas

The following action had been taken by the Board of Trustees on June 4, 1913:

Resolved, That the letter of Mr. La Verne Noyes dated May 31, 1913, and addressed to the President of the University, be spread on the Minutes.

Resolved, That his gift of $300,000 for a women's building to be erected in the Quadrangles of the University be accepted under the conditions and for the purposes contained in the letter aforesaid.

Resolved, That the thanks of the Board of Trustees of the University of Chicago are extended to Mr. Noyes for this splendid benefaction to the cause of education and especially to the welfare of the women students of the University.

Resolved, Further, that the Board, while deeply appreciating the magnitude of the gift, feels especially gratified that there is to be commemorated in the Quadrangles of the University the name of a gracious and gifted woman whose rare qualities are well worthy of admiration and emulation of successive generations of our young women.

Finally, it is the confident expectation of the Board that the Ida Noyes Hall will be an important addition to the

(188) University Quadrangles, not only as in itself a stately structure, but as affording opportunities for great service in many ways to countless students in the long ages to come.

The President of the University is instructed to convey this action of the Board to Mr. Noyes.

The first problem to be solved in making the new building a reality was the choice of a site. This was not a simple matter, as it involved many difficult problems connected with the future development of the University. A final decision was not reached until after the President's return from a summer in Europe. Finally, from several lots submitted to Mr. Noyes for a choice, all of which he personally inspected, he selected the south side of the block bounded by Fifty-eighth and Fifty-ninth streets and Kimbark and Woodlawn avenues. This choice made the building one of the prominent group facing the Midway, and insured a type of building adequate to its purpose as well as a fitting memorial.

Meanwhile suggestions as to the building itself were sought from all quarters. An outline of the needs to be met was made, and plans were sketched on the principle that the building was to be essentially a unit with each of its parts so re-

( 189) -lated as to make the whole available for the greatest number of needs of the greatest number of people. On October 27, 1913, Shepley, Rutan, and Coolidge were appointed as architects, and they proceeded at once to make tentative sketches based on the preliminary work. A commission of University women was appointed by the President to make a study of the plans as they developed. The following constituted the commission: Mrs. Harry Pratt Judson; Marion Talbot, Dean of Women; Gertrude Dudley, Director of the Women's Gymnasium; Myra Reynolds, Mary J. Lanier, Elizabeth Euphrosyne Langley, Heads of Women's Halls; Sophonisbe P. Breckinridge, Assistant Dean of Women; Elizabeth Wallace, Dean of junior College Women; Geraldine Gunsaulus Brown, Caryl Cody, Julia Dodge, Young Women's Christian League; Pauline Sperry, Ethel Preston, Woman's Graduate Club; Nancy Miller, Florence Foley, Helen Furchgott, Miriam Whalin, Marjorie Coonley, Ruth Victorson, Neighborhood Clubs; Isabel MacMurray, Louise Mick, Woman's Athletic Association; Cornelia Beall, Arline Brown, Ruth Hough, Charlotte Viall, Suzanne Fisher, Letitia

( 190) Fyffe, Margaret Riggs, Helene Pollak, Margaret Rhodes, Harriet Tuthill, University aides; Ruth Hough, Dorothy Llewellyn, Dorothy Farwell, Undergraduate Council; Lucile Bates, Women's Glee Club; Mrs. Nott Flint, Mrs. Ethel R. MacDowell, Marie Ortmayer, Josephine Turner All in, Alumnae.

Tentative sketches were placed on exhibition in Lexington Hall. The president of the Reynolds Club, the president of the Dramatic Club, and other men of the University made interesting and helpful suggestions. The inevitable result followed. With the perfecting of the details, and especially with the adoption of an architectural standard befitting the site selected for the building, the original gift proved inadequate and was most generously increased. The total gift of Mr. Noyes amounted to approximately half a million dollars.

The architects submitted plans and specifications embodying the suggestions of the commission and others, January 29, 1914. The plans were accepted by the Board of Trustees, February 4, 1914. The contract was let to Wells Brothers Company, December 18, 1914. On Novem--

( 191) -ber 19, 1914, ground was broken. Nine days later the first work was done in laying the foundations. According to the contract, the foundations were completed and ready for cut stone work on January 15,1915. The cornerstone was laid on April 17, by Mr. Noyes in the presence of a large company of Trustees, Faculty, students, and friends of Mr. and Mrs. Noyes. After an introductory statement by President Judson, I made a brief address, closing as follows:

I speak not only for myself but for all the women of the University when I assure you, Mr. Noyes, and you, Mr. President, that this cornerstone means a mighty impulse toward the truly great things of life. Here self-discovery and self-control will lead to social co-operation and mutual understanding. The weak will learn from the strong, and the strong will learn from the weak. Tolerance, sympathy, kindness, the generous word, and the helpful act, all typical of the woman we commemorate, will be the contribution of the women who go forth from Ida Noyes Hall to take part in the upbuilding of the new civilization which is to come.

Meanwhile, with almost the first sign of big building operations, a new problem confronted the Trustees. Architects, engineers, and contractors with designs, estimates, and computations, and gangs of men with picks and shovels were not

( 192) the sole craftsmen interested. Not only in Chicago, but all over the land, every type of house-furnishing and interior-decorating establishment was quick to see the opening for interesting and profitable business. Nearly overwhelmed with insistent attempts to secure the contract for furnishing and equipping the building, and puzzled by the wide variety of aesthetic and practical standards proposed, the Trustees sent the following letter on June 2!, 1915, addressed respectively to Miss Marion Talbot, Miss Elizabeth Wallace, Miss Myra Reynolds, Miss Gertrude Dudley, Miss E. E. Langley, and Mrs. E. F. Flint:


You have been appointed by President Judson a committee from the Faculty to confer with the Committee on Buildings and Grounds of the Board of Trustees with reference to the selection of furniture for Ida Noyes Hall. The chairman of the latter Committee is Mr. C. L. Hutchinson.

Very truly yours,

[Signed] J. S. DICKERSON, Secretary

I was appointed by the Trustees chairman of the Advisory Committee. Formal work was not done until after the Summer Quarter. On Octo-.

( 193) ber 11, 1915, the Committee met in the President's once and, in conference with him, decided upon certain general principles to be followed. The consideration of details, almost infinite in variety and perplexity, occupied every spare minute of the working days. Long evening sessions were necessary, and even some sleeping time was given to the interesting task. The result was the production of a seventeen-page typewritten document containing a list of articles, with estimated price, needed for each room in the building, the total for the three different divisions of the building—clubhouse, gymnasium and physical-education department, and refectory and kitchens—amounting to $71,500.54. The Committee had used charts drawn to scale for each of the rooms and, with movable blocks representing different articles of furniture, even to rugs, had worked out in great detail the choice and placing of every article. This had been followed by an estimate of the costs involved. The report of the Committee was submitted to the President on November 24, 1915, accompanied with the following letter:

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President K. P. Judson, November 24, 1915

The Advisory Committee on the selection of furniture for Ida Noyes Hall begs to submit the accompanying recommendations. The Committee has held frequent and prolonged sessions. The members have conferred with experts in furnishing as well as with individuals and groups of persons interested in having the Hall furnished in an appropriate and beautiful way and also with a view to securing the greatest degree of comfort and efficiency for the activities which are to go on in the Hall.

It is needless to say that the members of the Committee will be glad to serve further in any way in their power. Very sincerely,

[Signed] MARION TALBOT, For the Committee

The following reply was received:


November 29, 1915


Thanks for your report on the recommendations of furniture for Ida Noyes Hall. I will lay the matter before the Committee immediately. May I take this occasion to express my appreciation of the very strenuous work which the Committee has done, and which will certainly go a long way toward making the Hall livable?

Very truly yours,

[Signed] H. P. JUDSON

Dean Marion Talbot
The University of Chicago

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On November 30 the Committee on Buildings and Grounds of the Board of Trustees voted "to recommend to the Board of Trustees that authority be given to the Advisory Committee of Women to select and purchase furniture and equipment for Ida Noyes Hall at a cost not to exceed $72,000, that in connection with this purchase there shall be consultation and co-operation with the University Purchasing Agent, and that in connection with the furniture and furnishings of the Refectory there shall be consultation and cooperation with the Director of the University Commons."

Here was a challenge to a group of women whose time was already filled with professional duties. But visions of the ill-adapted, unattractive, and costly schemes for furnishing the building which had been proposed served to offset any qualms they might feel. The challenge was accepted, and the group entered at once upon their labor of love. Mrs. H. P. Judson, Mrs. Martin A. Ryerson, and Miss Cora Colburn were soon made members of the Committee. It was necessary to act with dispatch, as war conditions were bringing rapid advances in prices and no rate could be

( 196) guaranteed for more than a few days. In some cases advances were made overnight. Specific duties, including the selection of goods, were assigned to each member of the Committee; but all selections were made subject to approval by Miss Langley, whose technical knowledge, experience, and fine taste led to the confidence of the Committee and were large factors in the ultimate success of the work.

It was natural that, as time proceeded, some changes were seen to be desirable in the projected plan. Architectural difficulties were met, market conditions offered obstacles, certain decisions were postponed until nearer the completion of the building; but on the whole the scheme proved to be very satisfactory as the work advanced. The very careful and painstaking buying led to such savings that some improvements were found practicable, as, for example, the substitution of oriental rugs for Austrian hand-tufted rugs.

The following procedure was agreed upon:

After selection is made, a requisition for the approximate amount is drawn, signed by the chairman of the Committee, and certified by the Purchasing Agent. It is understood that Miss Talbot will withhold signature to the re-

(197) -quest for purchase until approval is given by the member of the Committee most directly concerned. The requisition shall then be presented to the Committee on Expenditures of the Board of Trustees. On receiving their approval 'Miss Talbot's final authorization will be given to the Purchasing Agent, who will issue the purchase order and attend to the routine of checking delivery of goods and passing bills.

Very frequent meetings of the entire Committee were held for consultation and the decision of uncertain questions. Each member was provided with a copy of the proposed scheme. The accompanying table illustrates the general scheme which served as a guide.

As each purchase was completed, an entry was made on the master copy which Ι kept. Accordingly, at any time there was definite knowledge, not only of how the work of selection was progressing, but of how the financial account stood. Occasionally, favorable purchases resulted in a saving which could be transferred to another item whose cost proved unexpectedly large; but this was never done without the consent of the Committee. As the result of the painstaking efforts of those employed in the task, involving even such arduous expenditures of time and strength as trips to the Atlantic and Pacific

( 198) coasts for the purpose of making favorable purchases, the outcome of the labors of the Com-


1 rug, 9Χ9 feet   $108.00
1 rug, 12 x 12 feet192.00
1 divan, 6 feet     150.00
1 divan, 5 feet 65.00
1 divan table   45.00
1 nest of tables     30.00
1 table with leaves    25.00
1 desk   35.00
1 desk chair     15.00
4 easy chairs       120.00
10 chairs   100.00
1 jardiniere 10.00
1 jardiniere stand 15.00
1 candelabrum     12.00
2 vases  5.00
1 tea cart    25.00
1 scrap basket 3.00
2 pairs of curtains70.00
4 cushions  25.00

-mittee was not only an equipment which harmonized with the building in usefulness and beauty but an expenditure about three thousand dollars less than the appropriation—an almost

( 199) unparalleled achievement in the history of such enterprises.

Ida Noyes Hall was dedicated and opened on June 5, 1916. Orr June 17, 1916, the chairman of the Committee received the following letter:

June 17, 1916

Miss Marion Talbot
Faculty Exchange


At a meeting of the Board of Trustees, held June 13, 1916, it was voted, in view of the fact that most of the furniture for Ida Noyes Hall had been selected and that members of the Committee will be absent or engaged in full-time teaching, that hereafter it will not be necessary to ask the Advisory Committee of Women to undertake the purchase of additional furniture. From this date, therefore, the Advisory Committee of Women will serve as an Advisory Committee and not as a committee to purchase.

I am sure that the Trustees desire to have me express hearty thanks to all the women who have devoted so much energy and efficiency to this important task. The beauty of the building has been much enhanced by the character of its furnishings.

Yours very truly,

[Signed] J. S. DICKERSON, Secretary

Please notify the other members of the Committee.

In November, 1916, President Judson sent to the chairman a communication in which, after

(200) expressing the sincere appreciation of the University of the valuable work done by the Advisory Committee and outlining the various steps which had been taken in the organization of the work, he said: "The faithful labors and excellent judgment of the various sub-committees have had their result in the beautiful and commodious provision made for the Hall in its present operation." After formally discharging the Committee, the letter closed with the phrase, "The Committee is entitled, may I again say, to the cordial thanks of the University."

In this story about Ida Noyes Hall no attempt has been made to cover the whole subject. The official reports which have been published tell of the beautiful Masque and other brilliant features of the dedication on June 5, 1916. Nor can it do more than hint at the gracious hospitality and fine standards of the social director, Mrs. G. S. Goodspeed, or the gatherings, both grave and gay, which took place in it, or the appreciation expressed by visitors from all parts of the world, who were unanimous in considering it the finest building for women in the country.


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