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Todd Hall as it appears today, its main facade essentially unchanged in 100 years.
September 18, 2012
MONMOUTH -- In a 1960s-era book detailing memories about Todd Hall, Janice Powell, a former student resident, described the structure's namesake, Jessica Todd, as a large queenly woman "who ruled over her domain like an old-fashioned headmistress."
Girls were expected to develop ladylike behavior, "making themselves worthy representatives of the teaching profession," Powell said. Those caught visiting other rooms after study hours were sent to the dean's office.
The building's hardwood floors were polished to a "satiny luster" once a week in student quarters and every morning in the school's entryway.
Todd's strict discipline and Victorian behavior weren't in keeping with the times of the 1930s -- "she was the end of an era," Powell wrote in a letter referenced in the book.
"But I'm glad that I lived in the dormitory when Dean Todd was there."
Todd Hall is one of Western's more storied buildings, because of its architectural components that still remain intact, its charismatic namesake -- and the occasional supernatural occurrence.
Todd Hall dining hall
The structure has reached its centennial this year and officials are recognizing that milestone with a historical exhibit featuring alumni memories, anecdotes and artifacts through December in the Hamersly Library.
There will also be a reception for former Todd Hall residents and building tours on Oct. 12 during WOU Homecoming Week.
"The thing about Todd Hall is that it's a memory in and of itself," said Jerrie Lee Parpart, Western's exhibits coordinator. "It's still a steam-heated building ... one of the restrooms still has its old linen cupboards.
"We've left as much as we can of the building."
Erected in 1912 for $50,000, Todd Hall was once simply referred to as "the Dormitory." It's the second oldest building on campus and what was then Oregon Normal School's first student residence hall -- for young women to be exact.
Born in Pennsylvania, Todd had been a critic teacher for prospective educators at the school, and was eventually named dean of women and director of dormitories.
Todd Hall's interior and demeanor have changed greatly from the days of Jessica Todd.
Etiquette was Todd's mantra, and parties and gatherings held at the dormitory were venues for students to display those social graces.
Todd retired in 1931, but traditions Todd started, such as guest and Sunday dinners, with all students invited and meals served family style, lasted until the 1960s. Her legacy of discipline lingered, too.
"Whenever a man came upstairs, be it your father or a delivery man, you had to yell out `Man on second!' or whatever floor you were on," wrote Margot Burridge Miller, a student during the late 1940s, for the exhibit.
Todd Hall transitioned from student housing to faculty offices and classrooms in 1969. It still seems to be a residence for ghosts, however.
Since the late 1980s, there's been talk of mists forming in hallways and strange light in upper story rooms. Other claims include sudden temperature changes, rearranged objects in offices and voices in Todd Hall's basement.
A team from the Pacific Northwest Paranormal Research Society in 2009 found no conclusive evidence the place was haunted.
Libby Salisbury, a senior at Western, helped research the Todd Hall exhibit. That the floors of Todd Hall get successively smaller from the ground to third floor -- like a pyramid -- was one thing that intrigued her while poring over the university's archives. The ghost talk, meanwhile, appears to have died down in recent years, she said.
"There used to be a tour public safety did through the building Halloween night," she said. "It would be interesting to start that up again."
* An exhibit on the history of Todd Hall will open on Oct. 3 from 4 to 6 p.m. on the third floor of Hamersly Library. The display will run through December. A reception for Todd Hall residents and building tours is scheduled for Oct. 12 from 5 to 7 p.m. in Todd Hall's "Brick Room." For more information: 503-838-8419 or www.wou.edu.