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Beloit College officially welcomes back historic Emerson Hall

This fall, Beloit College students can once again call Emerson Hall “home.” After almost 40 years, the historic student residence hall, at the heart of the residential side of campus, is again part of campus. The hall reopened with a celebratory ribbon cutting on Friday, August 19.

Emerson Hall was named after Beloit College professor Joseph Emerson, who laid its cornerstone on Nov. 19, 1897.

The original construction was a response to a growing student population at the time: Beloit began enrolling women in 1895. The red brick Romanesque building served as the college’s first women’s dorm.

Emerson became a co-ed residence in the 1960s and was occupied by Beloit College students until 1977. Two years later, it was sold with a right of reversion, the same year it was placed on the National Register of Historic Places. In the early 1980s, new owners converted Emerson into an apartment complex that housed city residents until 2013, when a fire caused extensive damage and forced them to relocate.

With generous lead donations from local residents Nancy Packard and Jim Packard (a college trustee), and gifts from alumni Frances Trout Norgren ’53, Robert Norgren ’52, and Barbara Roth ’37, the college regained ownership of the building in 2015.

While Emerson’s renovated interior feels fresh and new, students are still surrounded by reminders of the past, in part through the building’s unusual floor plans and room shapes—several located within turrets looking out onto legacy oak trees.

During restorations, contractors found a couple of tangible reminders of the building’s past. The original fireplace in a first floor lounge was uncovered when walls were removed. In the attic, workers also discovered sections of the well-preserved, original hand-carved staircase balustrade. These pieces were saved and transformed by a craftsman into a beautiful wooden bench for the building’s first floor common area.