Ewell Hall

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Ewell Hall, formerly Phi Beta Kappa Hall, was built in 1925-1926 and is located on Old Campus at 221 Jamestown Road, across the Sunken Garden from Tucker Hall. The current Phi Beta Kappa Hall was built after fire damaged the first Phi Beta Kappa Hall in 1953.

Ewell Hall

Construction: 1924-1926

Opened: 1926 as Phi Beta Kappa Hall

Renovations & Additions: Various (see entry)

Fire: 1953

Renamed Ewell Hall: 1957

Named For: College President Benjamin S. Ewell

map it for me

Ewell Hall, 2014

Construction

The plans to construct Ewell Hall were proposed by President Julian A. C. Chandler in 1919 and approved by the Board of Visitors in 1923, with John Kevan Peebles and Finlay F. Ferguson as the designated architects for the project. Construction began in December 1924 and the contract called for completion by December 6, 1926. The plans for the building included a large assembly hall, guest rooms for members of Phi Beta Kappa, and a reproduction of the Apollo Room at the Raleigh Tavern. Money for the construction of the hall was raised from Phi Beta Kappa members throughout the United States.

The cornerstone for the building was laid on June 3, 1925, and the building was completed in November 1926. However, it was not furnished for the fall session. The auditorium had a seating capacity between 1,000-1,100. It was dedicated on November 27, 1926.

The Interior

The entrance on the east side of the building opened into the auditorium (located in the south wing and measuring 64 feet by 90 feet), and the main reception hall (measuring 32 feet by 32 feet) at the north opened into the Apollo Room (measuring 24 feet by 32 feet) at the left. Another reception room, the Francis Phelps Dodge Room (measuring 24 feet by 32 feet as well), was located in the opposite wing. The reception rooms and the Apollo Room could be opened into each other to make an even larger room.

Located underneath the stage of the auditorium were dressing rooms and a large room for storage and other purposes. A movie theater was constructed in 1932 and a talking picture device was installed in the auditorium. A fireproof projection booth was erected in the rear balcony. That same year, the Lichtman Theatre Company bought the campus theatre from the previous manager, making it one of the chain of Licthman Theatres.

A new radio studio was located in the building in 1938, and five guest rooms on the second floor were temporarily converted to dormitory rooms for women in 1941.

The ceiling under the north balcony of the auditorium fell in during February 1950. In 1952, the residential portion of the building was converted into offices and leased to the National Office of the Phi Beta Kappa Society.

A fire on December 29, 1953 destroyed the auditorium. In 1954, John D. Rockefeller, Jr. gave $250,000 to the College of William and Mary for the reconstruction of Phi Beta Kappa Hall.

The Music Department moved into the north wing of Phi Beta Kappa Hall in 1955 from its former location in the Williamsburg Methodist Church. The building was renamed Ewell Hall in 1957, when the new Phi Beta Kappa Hall was completed. That year, the C. L. Lewis & Company were contracted to build an auditorium wing for $220,750. The addition for the music department was completed by 1958.

In 1961, two restrooms were installed in the lower front section of the building, replacing classrooms for the music department. Wings on the lower floor were used for offices of Chancellor A.D. Chandler and the comptroller. That same year, the Admissions Office moved from Marshall-Wythe Hall (now James Blair Hall) into the former Chancellor's Office, which was divided into separate rooms for clerical and administrative personnel. The Director of Development and the President's Office also moved in, and the President's Office stayed there from 1963 to 1985.

An addition to Ewell Hall was completed in 1988 and included a 154 seat recital hall, band and chorus rooms, practice space, a music library, office spaces, lockers, and a student lounge. Ewell Hall opened in 1989 and the Music Department moved back in. A dedication ceremony was held on May 4, 1989 to name the Van Buren band-orchestra room in honor of Anna Hite Van Buren.

Material in the Special Collections Research Center

When searching the Special Collections Research Center for material, be conscious of the name change from Ewell Hall to Phi Beta Kappa Hall and search for both.

  • Colonial Echo (selected): 1899, p. 9; 1901, p. 68; 1906, p. 158 (front door and porch); 1912, p. 163 (drawing, 2nd story porch removed); 1915, p. 136 (2nd story of front porch removed); 1916, p. 136 (east facade); 1922, p. 24.
  • Catalog: 1894-95, p. 43; 1904-05, p. 28;
  • Photographs 1918 in the Catherine Dennis Scrapbook, Special Collections Research Center, Earl Gregg Swem Library, College of William and Mary.
  • Photographs circa 1920 from the northwest showing enclosed stairwell on west end in the Miriam Winder Bright Papers, Special Collections Research Center, Earl Gregg Swem Library, College of William and Mary.
  • University Archives Photograph Collection, Special Collections Research Center, Earl Gregg Swem Library, College of William and Mary.

In the News


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Questions? Contact the Special Collections Research Center at spcoll@wm.edu or 757-221-3090, or visit the Special Collections Research Center in the Earl Gregg Swem Library at the College of William and Mary.

A Note About The Contents Of This Wiki
The information available in this wiki is the best available from known documents and sources at the time it was written. Unfortunately, many of the early original records of the College of William and Mary were destroyed by fires, military occupation, and the normal effects of time. The information available here is the best available from known documents and sources at the time it was written. Information in this wiki is not complete as new information continues to be uncovered in the Swem Library's Special Collections Research Center and elsewhere. Researchers are strongly encouraged to use the Special Collections search tools for their research as the information contained in this wiki is by no means comprehensive.