Ewell Hall, formerly Phi Beta Kappa Hall, was built in 1926 and is located on Old Campus across the Sunken Gardens from Tucker Hall. The plans to construct Ewell Hall were proposed by President Chandler in 1919 and were 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 complete by December 6, 1926. The plans for the building included a large assmebly 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, but it was not furnished for the fall session. It was dedicated on November 27, 1926 and contained an auditorium with enough seats for 1,000 to 1,100 people, as well as two large reception rooms, a reproduction of the old Apollo Room, and seven bedrooms upstairs for visitors.
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. A couple years later, in 1952, the residential portion of the building was converted to offices and leased to the National Office of the Phi Beta Kappa Society.
A fire on December 29, 1953 destroyed the auditorium. John D. Rockefeller, Jr. gave $250,000 to the College of William and Mary in 1954 for the reconstruction of Phi Beta Kappa Hall.
The music department moved into the north wing of Phi Beta Kappa Hall in 1955 from their former location in the Williamsburg Methodist Church. The building was renamed Ewell Hall by the Board of Visitors in 1957. The addition for the music department was virtually completed by 1958 and the music department is still housed in Ewell Hall as of today.
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 Comptroller. That same year, the admissions office moved from Marshall-Wythe Hall (now James Blair Hall) into the former Chancellor's Office, which was divded 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 nearly complete in 1988, and included a 154 seat recital hall, band and chorus rooms, practice space, a music library, office apces, lockers, and a student lounge. Ewell Hall opened in 1989 and the music department fully moved 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.
- University Archives Buildings File (2007). Ewell Hall. Earl Gregg Swem Library, The College of William and Mary, Williamsburg, Virginia