Early Wooden Buildings on the Palmer Memorial Institute Campus
Before the construction of the Alice Freeman Palmer Building, PMI's first brick structure, four wood frame buildings were built on the campus. To accomplish this Charlotte Hawkins Brown, with the help of students, began a letter-writing project in 1902. The initial project netted five hundred dollars. With this money and other donations the first new building was erected in 1905. Memorial Hall was a three-story building with an inviting appearance. The first floor included classrooms, offices, a library, and a dining room. The second floor was the chapel and the third floor was the girls' dormitory. Its wide porch ran across the entire front of the building, which made it seem like home to students and teachers alike. The kitchen was located away from the main building.
Memorial Hall brought about a genuine feeling of togetherness on the campus. It was the center of campus activity and it may be that in this accomplishment the true Palmer spirit was born. In 1909, Mary R. Grinnell, an early PMI supporter, sent funds to Brown for a new home economics building. When completed it was dedicated as the Mary R. Grinnell Cottage. By 1916, Palmer's campus included Memorial Hall (the foundation of Memorial Hall is located directly under the site of Kimball Hall, which is present on the campus today); Grinnell Cottage; Grew Hall, a dormitory for boys; and the Industrial Building, which contained workshops, as well as a YMCA with reading rooms for boys.
Two fires, one on December 31, 1917, and another five years later in 1922, resulted in the total loss of the Industrial Building and Memorial Hall. The frame structures were replaced by modern well-equipped buildings ushering in a new academic program, which would meet the demands of a changing student body.
The Alice Freeman Palmer Building
Named in honor of noted New England educator Alice Freeman Palmer (1855-1902), this building was the heart and soul of the PMI campus. Alice Palmer, president of Wellesley College, had been an early acquaintance, inspiration, and mentor for young Charlotte Hawkins.
Dedicated on April 7, 1922, the Alice Freeman Palmer Building was the first brick structure on the campus. It contained administrative offices, classrooms, the Wellesley Auditorium, and a library, which contained an art collection of reproductions of the world's masterpieces. The latter was purported to be among the first in any Negro school in the South. The building was completely destroyed by fire in 1971.