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The History of Harvard's Commencement, Explained
In 1700 the college yard was the piece of ground lying between Harvard and Massachusetts Hall and the original Stoughton Halls, which stood facing the main gate and made the eastern side of a quadrangle. The old Stoughton Hall was more picturesque than the other dormitories: it was three stories high, had dormer windows, and made some pretensions toward architectural beauty. In this building and in Massachusetts-at that time a dormitory-forty to fifty students had their rooms.
When the college buildings were occupied by the army in 1775, 240 men were quartered in Stoughton, and the Provincial Congress assigned a room in the same building to Samuel and Ebenezer Hall, who there published the N. E. Chronicle and Essex Gazette. In 1780, Stoughton Hall was torn down, as it was pronounced unsafe on account of the poor masonry. It was begun in 1698 and finished two years later, at the cost of L1000, given by Lieutenant-Governor William Stoughton.
The present Stoughton Hall, which was designated in the early catalogues as New Hall, was built in 1804, the funds necessary for it having been mainly obtained by a lottery sanctioned by the legislature. The building, as it stands now, has undergone but few changes since its erection. Originally there were staircases from each door, but those toward the common have long ago disappeared to make space for bed-rooms, and the little closets called "studies" have been torn down to make the rooms larger.
Stoughton, although it has housed many men since famous, has contributed very little to the traditions of the college yard. In 1839 two freshmen were awakened from their slumbers by the insertion through their window of a large rocket, which in its explosion fortunately did little damage. In 1870 an infernal machine was exploded within the building, which caused serious damage. Among the well-known names of those who at different times have roomed in Stoughton are found those of Edward Everett, Alex. H. Everett, Caleb Cushing, H. Greenough, Cornelius C. Felton, C. Sumner, G. T. Bigelow, Oliver Wendell Holmes, Edward Everett Hale, E. R. Hoar and others.
In 1815 there was a reading room in No. 3, where also an annual auction of old books, for the benefit of indigent students, was held. In 1878-79 this room was occupied by a member of the class of '79, who earned his living by tutoring and by the sale of text-book and stationery.
For twenty years the Hasty Pudding Club had the use of the upper rooms in the north end of the building for its library and meetings, and the Natural History Society had also its room there for some time.
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