Drill Hall

Title

Drill Hall

Subject

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Description

The state of Massachusetts gave $6,500 for the construction of the Drill Hall that was built on the Massachusetts Agricultural College campus between 1882 and 1883. This large barn-like structure stood on the south hill of South College. Originally, the Drill Hall contained a recitation room, armory, commandant’s office, lockers for the cadets, and a large open hall for activities. The building was gradually improved over time. In 1888, only five years after the Drill Hall was completed, a hot water heating system was introduced to the building. It also faced other renovations in 1894 and 1895, when an indoor rifle range was added and the armory was improved to accommodate the War Department’s regulations.

Under the Morrill Land Grant Act, students at the Massachusetts Agricultural College were required to serve in the military. The Drill Hall was built to provide space for students’ military training. Before the construction of the Drill Hall, indoor exercises were done on the third floor of the old chemistry building. The Drill Hall was especially used during inclement weather and throughout the winter. Officers and soldiers used the building for bayonet and sabre exercises, parades, reviews, guard-mount, and other exercises. Uniforms, weapons, and other equipment were also stored in Drill Hall.

With the rise of popularity of student activities in the late nineteenth century, Professor Richard Swann Lull suggested the Drill Hall should be used for indoor sports. It was then customized to be suitable for UMass Amherst’s first basketball and indoor track teams. It also housed UMass Amherst’s first physical education program, which Dr. Percy L. Reynolds started in 1909. The physical education department was then taken over by Curry S. Hicks and his wife Adeline E. Hicks. Adeline Hicks became the Physical Director for Women in 1927, and she converted the Drill Hall into a women’s gymnasium in 1931. Ruth J. Totman took over the women’s physical education program in 1943 and played a major role influencing and promoting physical education at the University of Massachusetts. She successfully expanded her program during a time of increased enrollments. After an electrical fire destroyed the Drill Hall in 1956, Ruth pursued building a new headquarters for the physical education department. In 1958, the new Women’s Physical Education Building opened and it was one of the largest, most advanced women’s physical education building in the nation. The program continued to expand as the student body grew.

The Drill Hall was used widely by both students and faculty throughout its existence. Significantly, it played a major role in the beginning of a physical education program at the University of Massachusetts.

Creator

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Source

UMass Special Collections and University Archives

Publisher

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Date

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Contributor

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Rights

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Relation

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Format

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Language

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Type

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Identifier

RG150-0004112, RG150-0004113; RG150-0004115, RG150-0006106

Coverage

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Original Format

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Files

RG150-0004112.png
RG150-0004113.png
RG150-0004115.png
RG150-0006106.png
Date Added
August 31, 2012
Collection
Central Campus
Item Type
Still Image
Citation
“Drill Hall,” Lost UMass, accessed July 29, 2017, http://lostumass.omeka.net/items/show/25.