Opened in 1897, Lippitt Hall filled the need for a drill hall and gymnasium facility on campus and a library for the College’s growing number of books.
Built with locally quarried granite, it was named in honor of Gov. Charles W. Lippitt. The architecture of Lippitt Hall is unique to the campus, primarily in its use of Tudor-style facings on the north and south side dormers.
Lippitt Hall houses a chapel and was the site of recitations. It was a central gathering place for the entire campus. An extensive renovation in 1935 established a Student Common in the building, including a cafeteria-style dining facility on the upper floor, along with a sandwich and soda shop in the basement. Student dining moved elsewhere during the war years, to allow a mess hall to be set up for the military contingent then in training at the College.
Dancing was always a popular activity in Lippitt. The Class of 1900 called its dancing class “the only thing that saved us from total madness. There all our cares and woes were forgotten in the mazes of the waltz and the two step, and our minds were allowed to relax from the strains of German and chemistry and rest in the strains of Whistling Rufus and Home Sweet Home.”
A festive gala all was held in Lippitt in 1951 when the College officially became known as the University of Rhode Island.
A $8.9 million renovation modernized the building with wireless technology and updated the classroom spaces. Today the building is home to the prestigious URI Honors Program, Africana Studies, and the Mathematics Department.
On September 10, 2009, a 14-foot bronze sculpture, Torsion III, designed and fabricated by Jamestown artist Peter Diepenbrock, was installed at Lippitt Hall. The sculpture was commissioned as part of the state’s 1% for Public Art Program, a program administered by the Rhode Island State Council on the Arts, which allocates a portion of all state construction funding to provide artwork for the new and renovated buildings.
The stately buildings ringing the University of Rhode Island’s Quadrangle helped shape the story of the institution. Here, on the occasion of URI’s 125th Anniversary, we present you with a narrative behind the walls of that historic timeline.
**Much of the historic data in this article was culled from information provided by the late Sandy Taylor, a champion of historic preservation and land conservation, who served as University Architect from 1987 until his retirement in 2005. We are also deeply indebted to students enrolled in Catherine DeCesare’s history class last fall who provided additional information. DeCesare is a history coordinator, academic advisor, and lecturer. Finally, we would like to thank Mark Dionne, Archives and Special Collections, for his patience and vast knowledge.