Wightman Hall, the first “modern” residence

The first Wightman Hall was an experiment that Wofford chose not to repeat. 

In the mid-1950s, with several of the college's residence halls and the main dining facility approaching a half-century of use. Wofford officials began to plan a new facility for students that would combine dorm rooms and a new kitchen and dining room.  The building was on the site of the old Wilbur E. Burnett Gymnasium, and cost about $500,000.  The dorm was originally built for 120 students, with 20 rooms on each of the top three floors.  The rooms were in suites of four rooms, and each suite shared a bathroom.  In a fairly novel design, each dormitory room opened onto outside corridors – essentially, wrap-around balconies.  The dining room, and space for a canteen and bookstore, were on the main floor, and there was a new kitchen in the basement.  Construction begain in 1957 and was completed the next year.  These additional rooms would allow the college to retire some of the older facilities, not to increase the size of the student body. 

As Bishop Will Willimon noted in one of his essays, the person who designed Wightman Hall had no understanding of the perverted mind of the college male.  Wightman was the scene of Wofford's legendary food fight-riot – though reports of food fights and riots in the mid-1960s are legendary.  The open balconies gave students ample opportunity to hone their throwing ability, and if it could be thrown from a fifth floor balcony, someone probably tried it.  Water balloons, tissue paper, and even an occasional mattress would find their way to the ground. 

Wightman was also Wofford's first co-educational residence hall, as the first class of women to live on campus found themselves occupying the top floor of the residence hall. 

The dining room on Wightman's main floor proved to be a fairly short-lived experiment.  With the opening of the Burwell Campus Center next door, the main student dining room moved out of Wightman.  The vacant dining room became the college canteen and bookstore, a situation that lasted until the Campus Life Building opened in 1981.  Renovations to provide a new laundry room and just over a dozen more residence hall rooms began in late 1983 and continued through 1984, with occupancy in the fall of 1985.  Those rooms were considerably nicer than those on the three floors above, partly because they were newer and partly because the rooms opened onto an inside hallway.  And although the dining room had moved, the Wightman basement continued to be used as the college's main kitchen. 

Plans to expand the Milliken Science center caused the college to build a new residence hall on Evins Street in 1998-99, and Wightman Hall was abandoned and demolished in early 1999.  However, the kitchen remains – the residence hall literally had to be demolished around the kitchen.  If you look carefully, the kitchen is sort of hidden behind the Milliken Center.  And, in tribute both to Wofford's first president and to the college's tradition of naming dorms after presidents, the new facility on Evins Street was renamed Wightman Hall. 

Note: It has come to my attention that the 1983 renovation date for Wightman is not entirely correct, so I've modified it in the text above.  Always feel free to correct errors, especially if you remember events differently than I record them!

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