High on the Hill

Dixon, Linda J.
1979

AT THE TOP OF THE STEPS

AT THE TOP OF THE STEPS

 

Here on the terrace high above College Avenue is a fine place to pause and to enjoy the view of Boston and its suburbs. At one time Walnut Hill used to extend well beyond the street below us, and College Avenue and the railroad had to be cut right through the hill. In the early days, when the steep and unsupported banks rose high on either side, travel through "the Cut" was considered somewhat dangerous, especially at night.

Today "the Cut" is the main entrance to the Tufts campus. The Memorial Steps leading to the top of the Hill are a suitably impressive entrance. You will climb these steps often; as you do, remember that they are a memorial to men and women of Tufts who served the nation in time of war. Each landing contains inscriptions commemorating those who served in the War Between the States, the Spanish American War, World War I, II, and the Korean War, and to those who "gave their lives for world peace and justice."

The buildings below us across College Avenue are the home of the College of Engineering. The older one on the right is Robinson Hall, erected about 1900 and named for Charles Robinson, H1894, an attorney, who became a trustee of the college in 1857, later serving for many years as president of the board and as legal advisor. Adjacent to Robinson Hall is Arthur J. Anderson Hall, completed in 1961 and considered to be one of the finest engineering buildings in the country. Arthur J. Anderson, E12, H43, was a devoted Tufts alumnus and a generous and hardworking benefactor. At the time of his death in 1964 he was the chairman of the Board of Trustees of Tufts University.

Behind Robinson and Anderson halls is a three-story brick building opened for use in 1893. It was built to house what became known as the Bromfield-Pearson Technical School — a preparatory school "associated with the College of Engineering." Bromfield-Pearson now houses the Department of Mathematics.

To the left on the corner is Curtis Hall, a prominent landmark of white-painted brick. It was built in 1894 on the site of the old college horse stable to provide additional facilities. It was named in 1904 for James Otis Curtis, Medford shipbuilder and Tufts University Trustee from 1856 to 1890. Curtis's beautiful home, now called the Curtis mansion, was recently acquired by the university. A structure of the early nineteenth century Greek revival period, it is situated on South Street, Medford, bordering the Mystic River. For generations a favorite rendezvous spot, Curtis Hall now houses the Kursaal (a snackbar), a student lounge, student activity rooms, the office of the student newspaper, the quarters of the Tufts radio station and the university post office.

Beyond Curtis Hall on Boston Avenue are a research building, built originally as the chemistry building; the headquarters of the Tufts police and the Department of Buildings and Grounds; the Bray Mechanical Engineering Laboratory, built with bricks salvaged from the reservoir; and Bacon Hall, a part of the College of Engineering named for George Preston Bacon, a former dean of the Engineering College.

 

Beyond the bridge over the railroad tracks is Cousens Gymnasium, named for Dr. John A. Cousens of the Class of 1898, president of Tufts from 1919 to 1937. The Tufts College Alumni Association urged the trustees to name the gym for Dr. Cousens because he had been a lifelong supporter of regular physical exercise and of athletics. Cousens Gym now contains basketball, squash and handball courts, an indoor track located in a cage and a six-lane championship swimming pool named for Frederick W. Hamilton of the class of 1880, G86, H99, fourth president of Tufts.

Some years ago, "Bob" (Robert H.) Backus, A51, broke the world's record for the 35-pound hammer throw in Cousens Gym. Tufts men and women have been on every United States Olympic team from 1948 to the present. Two Tufts coaches were Olympic coaches. The Boston Red Sox held their spring training in the baseball cage during World War II, and the Cincinnati Reds used the cage for workouts while in Boston for the 1975 World Series.

Cousens Gym has also been used for matriculation ceremonies, for commencement and for presidential inaugurations. It has also served the needs of the community in other ways, such as for concerts, lectures, political rallies and shows of various kinds.

Clay pits from which bricks were made were once located in the athletic fields across from the gym. The bricks used in the construction of the reservoir and now which are to be seen on the outer walls of Bray Lab came from this source. In the winter, when the water in the pits was frozen, neighborhood youngsters used the pits for skating rinks.