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Mrs. Perkins' Union College 1895-1904: Walking Tour Vantage Points: Vantage Point 5

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 5: Outside Jackson’s Garden

Outside Jackson’s Garden is the fifth 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 http://www.schafferlibrarycollections.org/s/mrs-perkins/page/interactive-map.  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 Jackson’s Garden is the oldest surviving garden on campus and has been continuously cultivated here since the 1830s, in Mrs. Perkins’ day much of this area had a somewhat wilder appearance.  The formal entrance gate on this side of the garden was only erected in 1925, several years after her death.  The garden was started by Professor of Mathematics and Natural Philosophy Isaac Jackson, whose daughter Julia Jackson Benedict tended it after his own death in 1877.  As we shall see shortly, Julia Benedict lived just a few steps away from the garden and was both a kindred spirit and rival to Mrs. Perkins. Across the garden and living on Nott Street, however, were two others individuals who figured significantly in Mrs. Perkins’ life and letters. 

 

The first was her daughter Rose, who married Edward Everett Hale Jr., an established academic who was to become Professor of Rhetoric, Logic, and English at Union College in 1895. When the young couple first came to the College, they lived on the far side of Jackson’s Garden in a house they called The Orchard.  Their home is no longer standing, but according to Mrs. Perkins it was the site of many entertainments for students as well as faculty.  The Hales would frequently walk over to South Colonnade to visit Professor and Mrs. Perkins.  The somewhat fragile condition of Jackson’s Garden and its infrastructure at the time is suggested by the fact that Mrs. Perkins worried about Rose’s trips over the College Brook in the garden via a bridge that she felt was rickety and unstable.

 

The second person who lived on the opposite side of the garden was the colorful C. B. Pond, who was hired by College Treasurer Frank Bailey as his assistant in 1901.  Union was in deep financial trouble at this point in its history.  Its debts were mounting, enrollment had fallen to less than 200 students, and Mrs. Perkins often complained that the College was unable to pay her husband and the other faculty on time. Frank Bailey is largely credited with saving the college from financial ruin by adopting such strategies as forcing the College to operate within its income, selling off unused land (including much of the College Grove to the east) to raise needed funds, and making many personal donations of his own.  Bailey did not live in Schenectady, however, and he hired Pond as one of his local enforcers to make sure that his new fiscal regulations were being followed and that student bills were paid on time.  Pond’s rough manner made him unpopular with many residents of the Union campus, including Mrs. Perkins.  He is reported to have kept a revolver on his desk when collecting bills, and Mrs. Perkins recounted one story in which Pond ordered that the door to the room of a student who hadn’t paid his tuition in time be locked – whether the student was in it or not.  Pond also angered many in the local community and on campus by overstepping his bounds and interfering in other matters.  He angered Mrs. Perkins, for example, by moving a tree that she liked to a much less suitable place on campus.

 

Although as far as we know Julia’s Benedict’s feelings about Pond have not been recorded, she too would not have been likely to have welcomed his interference with the College grounds.  After the death of her father, Julia Benedict took over the care of Jackson’s Garden personally.  As you walk towards the next vantage point, you will be passing Yulman Theatre on the right.  This was the site of the Benedict home (no longer standing), and it was from the rear balcony of this residence that Julia Benedict guarded all comings and goings in the garden that she not only maintained but considered her own.

 

Map links: C.B. Pond; Orchard-Hale Residence; Jackson’s Garden

 

Walk west between Yulman Theatre and North College towards Vantage Point 6, North College / Terrace Lane.