Hall, one of the oldest and most revered buildings on the Coe College
campus, was made possible by a generous gift from the Ralph and
Elizabeth Voorhees family in 1914. Ralph, a native of New Jersey,
married Elizabeth Rodman in 1887. She had recently inherited a
large estate and the couple began a long series of philanthropies. For
example, the Voorhees contributed a library, chapel and an endowment
gift of more than a million dollars to Rutgers University.
B. McCormick, president of Coe from 1897 to 1904, was the first
representative of the pioneer college to contact Mr. and Mrs. Ralph
Voorhees. He was trying to put together an endowment fund
campaign in 1901 and the Voorhees wrote him saying they were willing to
extremely generous with their wealth, the Voorhees were frugal in their
personal life. In 1914, Dr. John Marquis, then the president of
Coe, paid a visit to Mrs. Voorhees. She met him at the door
carrying an oil lamp. She explained to the president that
electricity was simply too costly to put into her own home, but that
she was willing to donate $50,000 to build and furnish a new dormitory
for women, the Voorhees Quadrangle.
new building was to be a state-of the-art facility for women,
comparable to a fine hotel. All rooms were connected by a bell
system. There were mostly singles and doubles for the women, but
the first floor included two apartments for college guests and a few
suite rooms, which were larger than the usual living areas. There
was a full kitchen on the second floor, a dining hall in the center of
the building, and a swimming pool in the basement.
the third east floor of the building there was an infirmary, which was
the size of two large rooms and included a bathroom for sick
women. This was used quite frequently in 1918 when many students
became ill with Spanish influenza. Among these was a freshman student,
Helen Roberts, who died in the infirmary on October 19, 1918. It
is said that she now currently haunts the halls of Voorhees, attempting
to live out the college life that her early death had denied her.
has gone through many renovations, including the alteration of the
dining hall into a lobby and transformation of the pool and locker room
area into a lounge and kitchen area. Over the summer of 2000, Voorhees
underwent a complete renovation in order to provide modern living
quarters for female Kohawks of the next millennium.
from the Courier [February 1915]
gift of Elizabeth R. Voorhees; built of cream brick, the same used in
the Science Hall [now called Stuart Hall], and is of the same style of
architecture. The building is a very latest fireproof construction and
most modern type of structure, having concrete stairs and floors
throughout. The only wood used is for doors, window sashes, etc. The
arrangement of the building, with stairs at both ends and fire escape
down the center, makes it especially safe in case of fire.
is on the northeast corner of the Campus and faces the south, the main
entrance being near the middle of the building. The entrance is the
most beautiful part of the building, the gray marble steps and
attractive glass doors give a good impression from the start. The
entrance leads to the rest rooms with a fire place in the west end. To
the right of the entrance is the matron's office. The light for the
entire building as well as a bell call system are controlled through
this office. At the left is a check and cloak room. The woodwork
throughout the building is birch, natural finish, and the concrete
floors are finished in red.
are fifty dorm rooms in the building. On the main floor there are
twelve rooms, as well as a guest room, and both private and general
baths finished in marble. The second and third floors are very much the
same, each having seven doubles and twelve single rooms. On the second
floor is a small kitchen to be used on special occasions.
basement of Voorhess Hall exemplifies something new in the construction
of girls’ dormitories. A big laundry room and a drying room make up the
west end of the basement. The east end has the locker rooms and
swimming pool. The pool is made of concrete and is twenty feet wide by
twenty-seven feet long, four feet deep at one end and a gradual slope
to eight feet in the deep end. A spring board is also part of the
equipment. A special filtering apparatus has been installed to filter
all the water that enters the pool.
stone "Voorhees Hall 1914-1917" was laid.
address were given amidst the hum of busy workmen plying hammer and
trowel who are hurrying to finish the building as early in the next
college year as possible. The two wings are three stories high with
basement and will accommodate about 70 girls each. The central and
connecting part is uniform in height with the wings, but is only two
stories above the basement. The extra story is divided between the
dining hall and parlors thus giving them a spacious and dignified
appearance. Besides the parlors and dining hall the central portion
will contain kitchen and serving rooms down stairs while the upper
floor will be given over to dormitory space.
Marquis revealed the history of the building, the initial gift of Mrs.
Voorhees and her subsequent additions to it until they finally totaled
$150,000, which is expected to cover the cost of the building.
Title Stone was officially laid by Dean Emeritus Alice King. It was
especially fitting that one who had been connected with the College for
so many years, who has served so many generation of students and had
been in turn so profoundly loved by them, should perform this service.
She said in part:
We have high authority for believing that
there are 'sermons in stones,' but far be it from me to attempt to
speak such a sermon. But there is a beauty in the symbolism of a
'title-stone' that has a deep and earnest meaning. Whenever man talks
of what we call the common materials of the world - its soil, its wood
its stone - and putting them together after a fashion of his own, forms
a structure for a purpose of his own, to carry out a desire of his
will, he does an almost sacred act, an act which shows his own high
impulses, or his wish to benefit others...So it is with this building,
whose title-stone we lay this afternoon. It came not here of itself.
The thought of it arose in the heart and interest of Mrs. Voorhess, its
form was arranged in the mind of the architect, its framework came
together by the skill of mason and artisan, and when the work of all
these is complete and united we shall have a building and quadrangle
really noble in conception, and worthy of a holy use. Not altogether
collegiate in its purposes some may think, yet surely there should be
within its walls such a happy combination of study, work, and
recreation as will fit our students for any duty of life, and help the
cultivate in them noble ideals of home-making and sweet womanliness.
now we leave the building; not to forget it as we go, but remembering
it, and praying that here many daughters of America may indeed become
'corner-stones polished after the similitude of the palace.'
building was steam heated and lighted throughout with
electricity. A dining room below, a story and a half in height,
with spacious parlors above that open onto a broad porch designed for
use as a stage for outdoor entertainments. The building faces the
campus and so the noise of the street is shut off and an air of privacy
is secured. Can accommodate 170 women. The whole quad was
open in the fall of 1918. Two weeks later Helen Roberts dies in
Voorhees, a victim of the world-wide flu epidemic.