Academics / Arts / Community

Ode to the Classroom Building

The Dana Hall Classroom building has seen about six decades of students, countless eras of fashion, and numerous learning models. Still, it has been a foundation for Dana Hall students to learn, lead, and grow through its sixty years of existence. This classroom renovation will mark a significant transition in Dana’s educational offerings and environment. Before Dana Hall embarks on this next chapter, let’s look to yesteryear with curiosity and admiration.   

Students walk past the construction site of the Classroom Building.

When completed in 1958, the Classroom building was a technological feat compared to its founding predecessor, Dana Main, which no longer stands but stood next to Bardwell Auditorium. The current Dana Campus on Grove Street used to be the home of Pine Manor College. The only earlier building recognizable to current Dana affiliates would be Beveridge Hall, as most school facilities have been renovated in the past three decades. In 1956, the Classroom Building marked the edge of the Dana Hall campus. 

Helen Temple Cooke, who bought the school and became its principal in 1899, firmly believed that fundraising from alumnae was wrong. After about forty years of her leadership, Dana Hall had greatly expanded its campus but was about ⅓ of a million dollars in debt. In 1945, with the knowledge that Dana Main was a fire hazard and adaptations needed to be made, the Board of Trustees and Ms. Cooke, finally agreed to alumnae fundraising. That year, the Alumnae Association was authorized at the Board of Trustees Annual Meeting to develop a Building Fund campaign, which raised money over ten years. Construction began on the Classroom Building in June 1955. The following June, the Classroom building was dedicated, and the first classes were held that September, which was the 75th anniversary of Dana Hall School. Ty Forbush, ’58, recalls the line of Dana girls carrying books from the library in Dana Main to the New Classroom building’s library, which was a moment she looked to with pride and excitement for the new experiences that lay ahead. 

The former chapel, now the choral room.

Blueprints and photos of the Classroom Building basement reveal the quite literal non-secular foundations of this institution. What is now used exclusively as a choral room once housed pews, crosses, candles, an organ, pulpits, and biblical quotes. On the first floor, what is currently the English hallway was once the biology and chemistry labs. Student Affairs, the home of the Senior class, once housed Dana Hall’s library of 10,000 books and study spaces. Today, Dana Hall students still use the large auditorium, erected in 1956 with the building. Originally called the “assembly hall,” it was renamed Waldo Auditorium in 1981 in memory of Dorothy Waldo, the principal of the school from 1932 to 1938.

For the past sixty years, the Classroom building has been a gathering space for students to explore their interests, hone their skills, collaborate with faculty, and build long-lasting friendships. Lee Frechette ‘81 recalls waiting in line for the phone booth outside the academic offices where parents were informed of college decisions. “It was the place and the support that we gave each other — friends being sad and encouraging or congratulatory.” Similarly, Katherine Elliot ’17 has favorite memories rooted in Dana’s infectious sense of sisterhood, seeing the “posters in the hallway, and all-school meetings.” 

An aerial view of the Classroom Building.

In the words of Dr. Seuss, “Sometimes you never know the value of a moment before it becomes a memory,” and with that in mind, let us give one final thank you to this building for harboring thousands of moments of self-discovery, support and community, all of which have contributed to a sense of belonging, stretching long past our Dana days.

Images source: the Nina Heald Webber ’49 Archives Room in the Helen Temple Cooke Library.

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