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1923 Sutton Hall

Time Capsule-Historic Images and Recollections (Images and Recollections)

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An influx of new male students after World War I, meant the Normal School needed additional housing for men. A group of Cheney businessmen used private bond funding to erect a new men's dormitory. In honor of the service William J. Sutton had given to the school and the community, they dedicated the new hall in his name on September 21, 1923.

Sutton Hall
Senator William J. Sutton
From 7th Street view of Sutton Hall
1947
1959
Sutton Hall lounge 1947

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Women students had always outnumbered the men in the early days of the Normal School. There were enough male students by 1899 to field football and basketball teams, but their numbers meant they could easily find places to live in boarding houses in town. At the end of the first World War, the number of men enrolling at the school grew rapidly. 

In order to respond quickly to the need, a group of businessmen and the Board of Trustees came to an agreement. The businessmen would provide the funds for building a men's dormitory by issuing private bonds to the school that would be repaid later. The building was completed in time for students to move in for the Fall quarter of 1923. 

In those days, dormitories had an adult, on-site, "director" to make sure the rules for student behavior were followed. In 1930, Joseph and Winona Hungate, along with their youngest son, moved into a comfortable apartment located next to the formal lounge in Sutton Hall. Curtained, glass French doors from the lounge were the entrance to their apartment. While Sutton Hall was a men's dorm, Nona Hungate often entertained a group of married ladies who had a quilt club. The big lounge made a perfect place to set up the quilting frames when the male students were not using it. The ladies held many quilting bees there. Nona was a mother and a friend to some 1,040 to 1,521 young men during her 13 years at Sutton Hall.

In the 1970s, Sutton Hall housed male veterans, many of whom had recently returned from the war in Vietnam. The building was extensively remodeled into offices in 1978. The entire interior was dismantled in 1996 leaving no trace of the building's original function as a dormitory. Another interior remodel took place in 2001. Sutton Hall now serves as office space. The outside of the building looks very much like it did back in 1923, with only minor changes.

The building was dedicated to William J. Sutton, who twice in his career saved the Cheney Normal School from closure. He served as principal of the college from 1892-1897. In those days a Principal not only oversaw the school administration, but was also the head teacher.

Sutton was born in Michigan in 1865, and graduated from the Fenton, Michigan Normal School in 1886.  The next year he moved to Washington.  Being a man of some charisma as well as ability, he was soon elected principal of the Cheney Public School.  Sutton was chosen as Vice Principal of the newly established Cheney State Normal School in 1890, and two years later he was elected Principal.

The original building burned in 1891, but Sutton was able to prevent the Governor's efforts to close the school. By the time he resigned from the Normal School in February 1897, the institution had a new building, funded by an appropriation from the legislature.  Soon after resigning, Sutton married Nellie G. Hutchinson, who had been principal of the Cheney Normal Training School, and he turned his focus on farming and breeding horses.  He also served as president of the Security National Bank of Cheney.   

William J. Sutton returned to the political arena when he was elected State Senator in 1912, shortly after the Cheney State Normal School building had once again burned. In a singular effort against the odds, Senator Sutton pushed through passage of a $300,000 appropriation, despite Governor Ernest Lister's veto. That money built the Administration Building, later christened Showalter Hall, which is still the most prominent building on the campus. Sutton went on to serve a total of four terms in the Washington State Senate, during which time he chaired several educational commissions. He was also instrumental in  saving the State College (WSU) in Pullman from being reduced to the status of a trade school. He retired from politics in 1929, and oversaw the farming operations on his land near Cheney, as well as staying involved in local civic improvement projects until his death in December 1940.

The Sutton Hall building is 3-stories that looks like the letter H, made of brick with a concrete foundation and a flat roof. It is 133 feet long with two 111 foot wings. Originally, there were sleeping porches at the rear of the building. The only remaining evidence of them is an odd interior brick wall in the rear part of the building that once enclosed those sleeping porches.

Sources

Cheney Free Press. Cecil Dryden; Light for an Empire — The history of Eastern Washington State College; 1964. Guide to the Eastern Washington University Campus Historic District; 2003.

Address
624 F St
Cheney, WA 99004
Tags
  • Architecture and Historical Buildings
  • Cultural History
  • History of Public and Higher Education
This location was created on 2016-09-26 by JM Mamanakis, Cheney Historical Museum.   It was last updated on 2019-04-19 by Joan Mamanakis, Cheney Historical Museum

This entry has been viewed 391 times within the past year


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