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Mrs. Perkins' Union College 1895-1904: Walking Tour Vantage Points: Vantage Point 3

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 3: The Nott Memorial looking east towards Schaffer Library

The Nott Memorial is the third 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. 


Although the Nott Memorial was and is at the center of the Union College campus, it was not completed until 1877, about a decade after Maurice and Anne Perkins arrived on campus.  In its early years it was most frequently referred to as simply “the round building,” and although it was intended to be used for alumni and other College events, it was difficult to heat and illuminate and therefore little used.  Student dances were occasionally held here, but Mrs. Perkins’ letters confirm that the icy conditions in the building still left attendees feeling frozen. It was also used as a museum and boasted a collection of reproductions of classical statuary. In 1903, Mrs. Perkins reported that a major prank took place when students took the statues out of the building and onto the athletic field to the west, setting them up as though they were they were playing baseball.  Mrs. Perkins herself was amused, as others must have been as well, even though some of the statues were broken. In any case, the students were able to re-stage the prank later for local reporters.


A much busier place on campus than the round building was the red brick Washburn Hall, which stood between 1883 and 1963 just in front of where Schaffer Library now stands.  During the period of Mrs. Perkins’ letters, there were no other College buildings behind Washburn Hall, only a running track and a large wooded area known as the College Grove. Like the round building, Washburn Hall had substantial heating problems, but it was better designed to serve a variety of purposes and housed classrooms, administrative and faculty offices, and the library.  The space set aside in Washburn for the library quickly proved inadequate, however, and in 1902, Mrs. Perkins sent the exciting news to her son that Andrew Carnegie had donated $40,000 to turn the round building into a library (and fix the heating problem).  Work on this project was completed in 1905, just after the last of the letters Union has from Mrs. Perkins.


Map links: Library (Nott Memorial); Washburn Hall


Walk north towards Vantage Point 4, Philosophical Hall (now the Visual Arts Building)