From a 1983 Ramsey County Historical Society and Saint Paul Heritage Preservation Commission Historic Sites Survey:
Significant details: “Box-like dormitory building with first floor faced with stone, upper floors faces with brick. Widely spaced windows. Double door entrances on north and south facades.”
Significant site and landscape features: “Open cement block wall surrounding small front parking lot.”
Additional comments: “This building also houses one of Hamline University’s two cafeterias. It is located on the north side of the first floor.”
Historical background: “Sorin Hall was named for Elizabeth and Emily Sorin. These sisters were early graduates of Hamline University. The graduated in 1859.”
Statement of significance: “An uninspired dormitory building.”
After this “uninspired dormitory building” was built, it of course needed a name. So today it is known as Sorin Hall. How did Hamline decide on that name? There were a number of candidates on the list:
William Pitt Murray
Elizabeth A. Sorin
Emily R. Sorin
Willis A. Gorman
Hascal R. Brill
George H. Bridgman
Samuel F. Kerfoot
Charles Nelson Pace
Miss Gertrude Southwick Kingsland
Thomas P. Beyer
James S. King
Henry L. Osborn
Mrs. F.F. Lindsay, Minneapolis
Here are the minutes:
*Source: Hamline University Archives
Now while I’m bored by the number of “prominent men” on this list – which is to be expected of a naming list created in the mid-twentieth century – there are several things I do find interesting.
First, Hamline appears to know quite a bit about the women associated with its early history, which is remarkable, considering the erasure of Hamline’s women’s history that happened between the 1960s and 2001 when I came to campus as a faculty member and started researching.
While they get right that Emily Sorin Meredith: “became a farm wife” … that’s an understatement if I ever heard one! Sorry to tease, but I’ve been working on Emily’s very interesting history as a woman’s rights activist … but more on that later. Ask me about it if you want to know right now!
I also think it’s pretty interesting that Hamline knows about the Louisiana, Missouri, college Elizabeth and her father opened with Susie Sorin, although Hamline appears to think it’s Louisiana, as in the state. What’s more, they know about Gertrude Southwick Kingsland – who was among Hamline’s first graduates to earn a PhD.
Second, is that they are clear B.F. Crary was the first PRESIDENT of Hamline University, and that Jabez Brooks was first PRINCIPAL (of the preparatory department), then the second Hamline president. All of this is confirmed by my research. Yet, I wonder when the slippage came in that has people now thinking and saying that Jabez Brooks was Hamline’s first president? More erroneous Hamline history to correct. There’s a never-ending supply, it seems.
Want to see more? Contact the Hamline University Archives.