Some History: Murdock Hall, the cradle of MCLA

Photo from the MCLA Freel Library. Murdock Hall is the oldest building on the MCLA campus, seeing generations of students through its many years of service. 

MCLA boasts 1894 as its official opening date, but if you were to travel back there, you would see more of the town of North Adams than school buildings. In fact, the only recognizable building you would find would be Murdock Hall, the oldest and only building that still stands from North Adams Normal School, the college's website reveals. 

In 1897, Murdock Hall’s inaugural year, the yellow-bricked building hosted four teachers and 32 students, only three of whom where men. From the very beginning, the small school was committed to training teachers, as its first educational program was a two-year diploma program. When Murdock Hall, under the mantle of North Adams Normal School, graduated its first class, totaling 53 new educators, one of the future college’s longstanding traditions was started; planting ivy at the base of the school, a tradition that is still acknowledged to this day. 

Murdock Hall got its name from Frank Fuller Murdock, North Adams Normal School’s first principal, who took on the role for 25 years of his life. Murdock Hall’s establishment as the Normal School came during the death throes of the industrial revolution, in which the city of North Adams was affected by a population explosion, in which the town was brought to life by Arnold Print Works, which would later be replaced by Sprague Electric, whose headquarters is now occupied by Mass MoCA. As such, in 1894, North Adams was chosen as one of four locations in Massachusetts for the construction of a Normal School, due to the high demand for educators at the time. 

Through the decades, Murdock Hall has been repurposed multiple times, but it barely shows. Now housing the offices of the Business department, two computer labs, the Writing Studio, as well as room 218 – the site of the college’s weekly SGA meetings, Murdock Hall shows off its recent renovation; a new design caked under about half a decade of classes, club activities, dust and wear. The only thing reminding students of its long history is of course its old yellow bricks, recognizable even in the oldest photographs of the building, and the years of classes long gone engraved on its exterior, reminding students of the long tradition they are continuing. 

In fact, every MCLA student pays homage to Murdock and the Normal School twice, even if they don’t know it. It’s been a longstanding tradition for every student to go through the gates of the original building, which serve as a welcoming sight to newcomers, long detached from Murdock, once, and then once again when they graduate. Those gates are where MCLA began, when the first education teachers passed through its gates into their studies as industry thrived around them.  It is the seed from which North Adams State College, and later, MCLA grew from, and still shines strong. 

All around this college is history, with echoes of industry and eras long gone forming the foundation of the college today.