Mac Hall Mystery

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Chelsea Langevin – Senior reporter. For some, the mystery of Mac Hall’s top floor lies in its eerie vacancy with remnants of window decorations that hint at a rich history of past generations.
For others, the conundrum of Mac Hall is its vast, empty space for which the college seemingly has no use.
Although the exact date of Mac Hall’s construction is unknown, its history extends to the beginning years of the college, as it was the first building built in addition to Pioneer Hall, Irv Wiswall, chief technology officer, said.
“It was the first building built only as a residence hall, and it was only for men,” he said.
The top floor’s chilly open spaces, while abandoned, provide clues and insights into student life before Elkington and Terrell halls provided alternative housing options. A Pepsi machine still hums in the middle of the night, and board games still collect dust in the community closets on both floors.
Although it was the first residence hall built on campus, Mac Hall does not have the layout of typical Linfield college housing. Not only did students have a reasonable amount of individual living space, they also had full bathrooms in their rooms.
“It was choice housing because of the bathrooms,” Wiswall said.
When Wiswall rejoined the Linfield staff team in 1992, Wiswall said Mac Hall housed women on the top floor and men on the second floor. When Integrated Technology Services moved into Mac from Graf Hall in 1995, it occupied the left half of the first floor while still housing students on the right.
At one point, ITS’ residence housed a spacious lounge and a fireplace, Wiswall said.
There was also a time when the first floor held offices of Career Services, Counseling and Learning Support, Jeff Mackay, associate dean of students and director of residence life, said.
Once Elkington and Terrell halls opened in 2006, Mac was converted into a computer lab while Renshaw Hall was in the midst of renovating, Wiswall said.
Now the top floor is almost completely empty, and the downstairs is a veritable collection of high-powered computers.
“There was some thought to the upper floors as office space, but there is no elevator in the building, so the offices would not be accessible to all students,” Mackay said.
More than 100 years after its construction, Mac Hall holds a wealth of stories for past students. As the building is now home to ITS, Wiswall said he has become accustomed to alumni visiting and remarking about the drastic changes.
“They want to see where they live and often have stories to tell,” Wiswall said.
During last year’s Homecoming, one alumnus who attended Linfield roughly 50 years ago, was particularly interested in looking in the old laundry room closet on the first floor, Wiswall said. When Wiswall asked the man what was special about the room, the man said he used to store his hunting rifle in the closet.
“He told me, ‘I used to go pheasant hunting in the morning before classes,’ and I said, ‘Where?’ He just pointed right behind Mac where Renshaw is,” Wiswall said.
Despite Mac’s historical and sentimental significance to the college, Linfield plans to demolish the building to increase department space for faculty.
“The long-range future of the building is to be torn down, as that location is the proposed site of the new science building,” Mackay said.
While the plans are still in the initial development stages, ITS has discussed possible places it could move, Wiswall said. One prospective office space would be in Northup Hall after the renovation is complete. Another option is to move into Malthus Hall, which is located behind the Blaine Street Apartments.
Without its physical presence on campus, Mac Hall’s mythology and legacy will continue to be passed on by former students and faculty members as the college is changed for future generations.
Mac Hall’s top floor remains filled with abandoned apartments. The hallways are bare and still contain remnants of the residents who once lived in the hall. An old soda machine serves as a reminder of past residents of Mac Hall. One of the abandoned apartments in Mac Hall has been converted into a conference room.