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Mrs. Perkins' Union College 1895-1904: Walking Tour Vantage Points: Vantage Point 6

This guide includes information organized for an historic tour of Union College that may be accessed via a mobile device and QR codes. See the Mrs. Perkins’ Union College site on the library’s home page for more information about this project.

Vantage Point 6: North College / Terrace Lane

North College / Terrace Lane is the sixth of ten vantage points on a self-guided tour of Mrs. Perkins’ Union College, 1895-1904.  Mrs. Perkins, the wife of Professor of Chemistry Maurice Perkins, lived on campus for nearly sixty years and wrote vivid letters to her son Roger about her life at Union at the turn of the 20th century. These letters were recently donated to the College by a Perkins descendent.  An interactive map of the entire campus in Mrs. Perkins’ day is posted on the Schaffer Library website at  The library’s website also includes excerpts from Mrs. Perkins’ letters and additional pictorial, historical, and biographical material as well as further information about this Schaffer Library Digital Project. 


The corner of North College on Terrace Lane where Yulman Theatre now stands was once the site of a mock-Tudor home with Victorian touches known as the Benedict House. It proprietress, Julia Jackson Benedict, was the daughter of Professor of Mathematics and Natural Philosophy Isaac Jackson, and she lived on campus for even longer than Mrs. Perkins. Julia Jackson was born at Union in 1838, married Samuel Benedict (a Union College graduate who went on to lecture in law the College) in 1865, and she lived here in the house that she built with her husband until her death at the age of 87.  For fully half of her life, after her own father’s death, Mrs. Benedict took over the care of Jackson’s Garden.  This dedication had its price for the College community, however, for Mrs. Benedict regarded Jackson’s Garden as her personal property, not to be used by students without her permission.  She was even known to use her shotgun from the balcony of her house to enforce this policy.  Mrs. Benedict and Mrs. Perkins had much in common in that they would often talk with one another about their gardens.  They often argued about religion, however, for Mrs. Benedict was a convert to Catholicism and Mrs. Perkins a devout Presbyterian.  Mrs. Perkins’ letters make clear that she found their disputes tedious and Mrs. Benedict’s general tenacity about her own opinions wearisome. 


Turn to walk south along North College.  What is now Wold and Messa Minerva houses were once a combination of faculty and student residences and recitation rooms.  The faculty apartments were at either end of North College, with the student dormitories in between.  The end closest to the Benedict house was occupied by James Truax and family.  Truax, like the Perkins’ son-in-law Edward Everett Hale Jr., was a professor of English language and literature at Union, and Mrs. Perkins writes of the deep anxiety occasioned both families in 1902 when the College’s Board of Trustees decided that, given Union’s dire financial situation at the time, it could not afford to keep them both.  Although a proposal surfaced to retain the two professors by reducing their individual salaries, eventually Truax left the College, citing reasons of health, although it is not clear whether he was persuaded or left voluntarily.


The faculty apartment at the southern end of North College was occupied by William Wells, or “Uncle Billy,” a professor of Modern Languages.  He was in his eighties at the time Mrs. Perkins’ letters were written, and she suggests that his powers and presence on campus were both beginning to wane.  Like the Benedicts, however, Wells had his home for life.  In between the Truax and the Wells families, students lived in dormitories that had changed little in comfort since the building was constructed in 1813.  At the turn of the 20th century, steam heat, electric lighting and improved bathrooms were installed, but neither this dormitory nor its twin in South College were adequate for the numbers of students enrolled at the time. As we shall see later, the construction of four new fraternity houses on campus during this period relieved some of the student housing pressures.


Map links: Benedict; Truax; North College; Wells


Continue walking south towards Vantage Point 7, The Flagpole / South College.