North Hall finds new purpose

Grace Jackson, News Reporter

North Hall’s imposing entrance. Photo by David Lu.

Since it was built in 1928, North Hall has gone from a hospital, to a dormitory, to a fire department training site, to a quarantine space, and finally back to a residence hall. North Hall was closed in 2018 after the opening of Stanton Hall, but a record number of students requiring housing this year prompted Residence Life to reopen the space.

Associate Dean of Students and Director of Residence Life and Housing Nancy Tavelli said that the Residence Life Office decided to reopen North Hall this summer to accommodate the large number of first-years and returning students in need of housing. About 60 students live in North Hall this semester, primarily in singles. 

Tavelli said that the College had originally considered using North Hall last fall when the governor’s office mandated that students living on campus be in singles. After it was decided that Whitman would be online that semester, the space was repurposed for student quarantine housing.

The building was renovated in 2020 and received new upgrades this summer, according to Tavelli. She said that the building actually has more amenities than other first year residence halls. Many of the rooms have their own bathrooms and the section lounges have new appliances. Additionally, students that were placed in North Hall get complimentary breakfast during the weekdays and priority for housing next year. 

First year Madeline Senter said that when she filled out the housing questionnaire it had not been announced that North Hall would be open this year. When she first saw the news, Senter had a feeling that she would be placed in North Hall. Her suspicions were confirmed on the day that housing assignments were announced after some initial confusion. In the email first-years received from Residence Life, they got their room numbers but not the name of the hall they would be assigned to. 

“I had a feeling for maybe a month when I knew that North Hall was going to be open, that I would be placed there because that is the type of luck that I have, and so I had this feeling when I heard some of my friends say what halls they ended up in that I would be in North,” Senter said.

A look inside the halls of North. Photo by David Lu.

Senter added that the class of 2025 group chat that had formed over the summer was filled with other students joking about how North Hall was haunted because it used to be a hospital adding to her apprehension.

Senter’s sectionmate, first-year Jane Gotzler said that she had missed the news that North Hall was going to be open because she had been occupied with her summer job. 

“I think initially I was pretty stressed and unhappy about it because it wasn’t within my expectations,” Gotzler said. “Eventually, Nancy Tavelli emailed us and let us know the other accommodations we’d be getting and I was like ‘You know what? There’s perks to this.’ Once we talked about the pros of North I got onboard with it pretty quickly.”

Gotzler and Senter said that they have become close friends with many of the other students in their section. Senter said that after missing many milestones during her senior year, finding a tight-knit community in her residence hall was really special.

“It’s just a really fun group of people and I feel like it’s been a while since I’ve been in a community that is very similar to me,” Senter said.

A sideview of the building. Photo by David Lu.

North Hall and College House Resident Director (RD) Callie Gilchrist was part of the last group of first-years to live in North Hall before it closed and loved her time there. Gilchrist had already accepted the RD position when it was officially announced that North Hall would be open and jumped at the opportunity to be placed there. 

Gilchrist said that she really admired the residence hall staff her first year and the community that they helped create. 

“I personally had a really great experience living there my first year, so I wanted to bring a lot of enthusiasm and fun programs to make the environment very comfortable and exciting to live in,” Gilchrist said. “I feel like my staff and I together have been able to do that.”