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The 'Cottage System':
Students' First Impressions

The 'cottage system' replaced the multi-purpose, single-building scheme of the seminary with many structures for different uses, ca. 1910. Courtesy MHC Archives

The decentralization of the college meant that there was more choice about where students could live and the efforts of architects to make the new halls more attractive and domestic, seemed to be well received by students. In fact, Mary Ward from the class of 1897 wrote how the selection process for students who could move into Mary Brigham Hall the first spring it was opened in 1897, had to be kept secret:

Monday noon there was a class meeting, and a committee was appointed to unite with others from other classes, to ask the faculty to start a system of ‘cuts.’ The matter is being kept as quiet as possible. All those wishing to go into Mary Brigham during the spring term were to be asked to hand in their names…(24).

Because of the popularity of the hall and the hand-picked nature of the candidates, it was necessary to keep the procedure for choosing residents as hushed as possible. Perhaps such secrecy was understandable as another student from the class of 1897, Bertha Blakely, praised the new ‘cottage,’ claiming that “It was the firm belief of some that the atmosphere of Mary Brigham Hall was ethereal.” She goes on to comment on the “prettily appointed dining room” and “the capacious couches” and “quaint colonial parlors(6).

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