Constructed: 1882-1883, 1894-1895
Design and construction
Under the terms of the Morrill Land Grant Act, military service was compulsory for students at the Massachusetts Agricultural College. Training facilities for those students, however were clearly inadequate on the early campus, with indoor exercises held on the third floor of the old chemistry building. To rectify the situation, during his second tenure as President of MAC, Paul A. Chadbourne lobbied for funds to erect a building dedicated to military training, and after some difficulty, the state provided an appropriation of $6,500 for the construction of a drill hall.
Intended for use primarily during inclement weather, the Drill Hall was heavily used during the winter term, according to the College's Annual Report for 1887 “for bayonet and sabre exercises, parades, reviews, guard-mount, and out-post duty, and such other exercises as will give the cadet an insight into the duties of officers and soldiers in service.” Built on the hill south of South College as a large, barn-like structure, the Drill Hall originally contained a recitation room, armory, a commandant's office on the second floor, a large open hall (48x 123 feet) for exercises, and some no-frills lockers for the cadets. Uniforms and equipment (which then included a platoon on light Napoleon guns, a six-pound canon with limber, 75 sabres, 150 breech-loading rifles, some target rifles, two 8-inch siege mortars, and other accoutrements) were also stored in the Drill Hall. Earthworks used in mortar practice were located adjacent to the building as late as 1891.
The Drill Hall was improved over the years, beginning with the introduction of heating by a hot water system in 1888. Renovations in 1894 and 1895 further improved the armory and added an indoor rifle range, all to comply with War Department regulations. As other student activities began to rise in popularity in the last decades of the nineteenth century, professor Richard Swann Lull suggested in 1899 that the Drill Hall be fitted out to make it suitable as a gymnasium to support indoor sports. While baseball and football were played in the adjacent fields, and tennis behind, the Drill became the site for the College's first basketball and indoor track teams. Until a proper building was built, the Drill Hall continued to serve as a gymnasium, while housing the Department of Physical Education (as well as the Department of Military Science), and it was one of the places where student dances and receptions were held.
At the end of its life, the Drill Hall served as headquarters for both the ROTC and women's physical education. It was razed in 1957 to make way for Bartlett Hall.
- Cary, Harold Whiting. The University of Massachusetts: A History of One Hundred Years. Amherst, 1963.
- University Archives (RG 36/101/3)