Main Hall

1884 - Present

A Part of Cottey From the Beginning

Main Hall is the oldest building on Cottey campus. The original, central section was built 125 years ago, in 1884. It was 42 by 40 feet, and consisted of two stories and a basement (ground floor). The latter contained the dining room, kitchen, and service rooms, while the first floor housed the reception hall, parlors, and classrooms.15 The second floor held the boarding rooms, each with its own stove and lamp. The building had room for 12 boarding students the first year, and was later made to accommodate 18 students and provide recitation and music rooms. A third story and wings were planned for later.

The building officially opened on September 8, 1884 as Vernon Seminary, a "home and day school for young ladies."9 It had no electricity and no indoor plumbing in the first years. Boys were employed to haul water to the girls' rooms for washing, and an outhouse known as "Congress" was the only bathroom.14 (Congress sat where Neale Hall is today.)

Main Hall, 1884
Original Main Hall, 1884.15
Main Hall, 1886
Main Hall after the West Annex was built in 1886.18
Main Hall, c. 1890
Main Hall after the North Annex and tower were added in 1889.26


As money became available (largely through the sale of scholarships), additions were built onto Main Hall. In 1886, the West Annex was built, more than doubling Main Hall's capacity. The library was housed in the southern half of the annex, with a post office, voice studio, stockroom, and workroom in the northern half.15

A third story, central tower, and small front porch14 were added to the original building in 1889, for a total cost of $8,000.15 (Later on, the third-floor tower room was used by the Sphinx yearbook staff.) During the same year, the North Annex was added. After it was extended in 1911, it contained classrooms in the basement, administrative offices on the first floor, and suites on the second floor.

In 1899, a South Annex was added. Its corridor was used as the library, lined with big tables made from old square pianos.14 When the wing was extended in 1909, it doubled the basement dining room, added a music suite to the first floor, and two more suites to the second floor15 ― housing 16 more girls.14

Vernon Seminary
Students of Vernon Seminary in front of Main Hall, c. 1880s.
Main Hall, c. 1910
Students sit on the grass and porch of Old Main, c. 1900.
Neale Hall, Rosemary Hall, and Main Hall, c. 1927
A rare photo of Neale, Rosemary, and Main Hall ― the entire Cottey campus as it was when given to P.E.O. in 1927.22 Note the streetcar tracks.

Suites, Academics, & Administration

Amid all the additions to Main Hall, Rosemary Hall was built in 1903.15 (At this time, Rosemary was called the "West Building" and Main Hall became the "East Building.") Rosemary was the first Cottey building to utilize a suite floor plan, and became so popular that Main Hall's boarding rooms were reconstructed to mimic it in 1905-06. New hardwood floors and spiral staircases were also installed during these years.

Main Hall continued to house students until 1939, when P.E.O. Hall opened its doors. With the addition of P.E.O.'s 10 suites, Main Hall was no longer needed to board students, and was repurposed that summer as solely an "administration and classroom building."15 This remodel essentially restored "Ol' Main" to its original layout. As part of this reconstruction, Main Hall's South suite was turned over to the music department. When the music practice rooms were moved to Rosemary Hall in 1959, South Main suite was used for library expansion ― at least until the Ross Memorial Library was finished in 1963.

After Neale Hall's third story was destroyed in 1937, the classrooms it held were moved to Main Hall, which was already "filled to capacity with administration and dormitories. The class rooms [sic] therefore had to be crowded into undesirable space..."7 (This problem was alleviated when P.E.O. Hall was built.) Old Main's classrooms and labs were remodeled for administrative use after the Academic Building was built in 1974. However, Cottey's classes quickly outgrew the Academic Building, and in 1976, second-floor Main was again being used for classrooms ― and part of the third floor and basement were set aside for student organizations.21

The last major rearrangement of Main Hall took place in 1980, when the building was gutted and renovated. The corridor connecting it to Rosemary Hall was demolished at this time.

Main Hall, 1915
A lovely panoramic of Main Hall, 1915.3
Main Hall, 1915
Another panoramic view of Main Hall, 1915.3

Parlor Games

Prior to P.E.O. Hall's construction in 1939, Main Hall's parlors bustled with activity throughout the year. The season began with a formal reception, "when the people of Nevada [would] come to meet new students and faculty members and to renew acquaintance with old."8 Receptions also took place following Cottey's "Artist Series" events, when the performers would join students and faculty in the parlor for some punch and conversation.

Coffee Hour was held in Main Hall till 1939, and teas took place in the parlors several times a year. Tea was also served from a candlelit table each afternoon during exams. (This tradition continues: Tea and coffee are still served in the halls during finals weeks ― albeit without the pomp and formality of yesteryear.) Additionally, the Dean of Residence planned and assisted with teas when there was time and interest.

Various parties took place in the parlor as well, ranging from the somber Hanging of the Greens reception to the "hilarious" Twelfth Night party, which officially ended Cottey's holiday season.

There were also more common means of recreation in the parlors of Ol' Main. Bridge, lexicon, and other games were often played here. It was also familiar to see a group of girls crowd around the piano in the music room after dinner to play and sing popular songs. A radio allowed students to listen to their favorite program or put on some soft music while they read.

Main Hall reception room, c. 1940
Main Hall parlor, c. 1940.12
Tea in the Main Hall parlors, c. 1938
Tea in the parlor, c. 1938.10
Cottey students play bridge, c. 1940
Cottey students play a game of bridge, c. 1940.12

The Dining Room

Cottey's dining room was housed in the basement of Main Hall for 75 years. During that time, the customs and procedures of mealtimes reflected the age. In the 1930s and '40s, for example, eight to ten people were assigned to each table. The seating arrangement was switched every two weeks so that "each girl [had] a chance to become better acquainted with new and different groups of girls."4 A teacher or senior at each table acted as hostess while waitresses brought out the meal. (Imagine that!)

Several of the tables were themed; the German, French, and Spanish tables were staples.6 A diet table, introduced in 1937 for students who wanted to reduce, became so popular that Cottey soon added a second.23 A poem from the 1938 Sphinx commemorated the fad:

Some of them are short girls,
Some of them are tall;
Some of them are fat girls,
Some of them are small;
And they keep from eating
As long as they are able.
They’re all reducing—
It’s the diet table.5

Theming of a different nature occurred at the annual States Dinner, when students were seated by home state and dressed to represent it. (Missourians would be at the long central table shown below right.)

Main Hall dining room
Main Hall dining room, 1908.1
Main Hall dining room
Main Hall dining room, c. 1920(?) Note the ornate tin ceiling.
Main Hall dining room, c. 1940
Main Hall dining room during a formal dinner, c. 1940.12


1890: Virginia Alice Cottey married Samuel Stockard in Main Hall parlor.
1900: Alice's youngest sister, Katherine "Katie" Cottey, married George J. Nunn in Main Hall.
1902: Alice's sister, Mary Cottey, married E.K. Bright in Mother Cottey's house, with a reception in Main Hall.
1905: Alice's stepdaughter, Kate Stockard, married Robert Milam in Main Hall's parlor. Rob’s luggage didn't arrive so he was married in his traveling clothes. Katie played and sang her own wedding march.

More Photos

  Library Classrooms Other Interiors  
& Commencement
Exteriors Floor Plans  
Main Hall Library
Main Hall library
Original Main Hall library, c. 1900.
Main Hall library, c. 1920
Main Hall library, c.1920.24
Main Hall library, 1938
Officers of Phi Theta Kappa pose in the library, 1938.5
Main Hall library, c. 1940
A corner of the library, c. 1940.12 Note the Vogue magazine on the table.
  Main Hall library, c. 1952
Main Hall library, c. 1952.13
Main Hall Classrooms
Secretarial class, c. 1938
"Advanced secretarial majors learn the use of the adding machine," c. 1938.5
Business class, c. 1938
"The typewriter is familiar to all business students," c. 1938.5
Art class, c. 1938
"Art instruction and laboratory develop both appreciation and technique," c. 1938.5
Chem lab, c. 1938
"The chemistry lab stresses accuracy, and manual instructions are perused with care," c. 1938.5
Using microscopes in bio lab, c. 1938
"In the biological science department both beginning and advanced students use the microscope," c. 1938.5
Dissecting frogs in bio lab, c. 1938
"The frog is the first dissection specimen," c. 1938.5
Clothing class, c. 1938
"Clothing class fashions a new spring frock," c. 1938.5
Sewing in clothing class, c. 1938
Sewing in clothing class, c. 1938.5
Sewing lab, c. 1940
Sewing lab, c. 1940.12
Chem lab, c. 1940
Chemistry lab, c. 1940.12
Biology lab, c. 1940
Biology lab, c. 1940.12
Art studio in Rosemary, c. 1941
Art studio, c. 1940.12
Secretarial class, c. 1940
Secretarial class, c. 1940.12
Foods lab, c. 1940
Foods lab, c. 1940.12
Study lab, c. 1940
Study techniques class, c. 1940.12 (The professor is Florence Kenaston.)
Cottey classroom, c. 1940
A "typical classroom," c. 1940.12
Main Hall science lab, c. 1952
Cottey students work in the chemistry lab, c. 1952.13
A classroom in Main Hall after renovation, c. 1982
One of the new classrooms in Main, c. 1982.29 It could be used as one large classroom or divided into four smaller classrooms.
Other Main Hall Interiors
Main Hall parlor, c. 1938
A section of Main Hall parlors, c. 1938.8
Main Hall post office, c. 1940
"A popular spot ― the post office," c. 1940.12
A hallway in Main Hall, c. 1940
A hallway in Main Hall, c. 1940.12
Students traverse a Main Hall corridor, c. 1966
Students traverse the corridors of Main Hall, c. 1966.17
Main Hall tower
Inside Main's central tower, c. 1980. (From the Traditions Museum collection.)
Main Hall's circular stairway, c. 1980
One of Main's circular stairwells before renovation, c. 1980.27
Main Hall parlor after renovation, c. 1982
Main Hall parlor after renovation, c. 1982.29 (With portrait of V.A.C. Stockard.)
Main Hall entrance after renovation, c. 1982
The entrance hall after renovation, c. 1982.29 The windows in the doors and the clock were from the original building.
Main Hall conference room, c. 1982
Main Hall conference room, c. 1982.29 (Located on first floor in south wing.)
Convocation & Commencement
Cottey commencement, 1880s
Commencement, 1890s.30
Commencement in front of Main Hall, c. 1909
Graduates wind the May pole in front of Main Hall during Commencement, c. 1909.18
Cottey commencement, 1914
Commencement, 1914.25
Cottey commencement, c. 1940
Commencement, c. 1940.12
Capping on the steps of Main Hall, 1952
Capping on the steps of Old Main, 1952.13
Cottey convocation, 1975
Convocation, 1975.19 (Cottey President Dr. Milam is speaking.)
Main Hall Exteriors
Main Hall and Rosemary Hall
Rosemary and Main Hall, c. 1905.
Main Hall and Rosemary Hall
Rosemary and Main Hall illustration, c. 1908.2
Main Hall, c. 1912
Postcard of Main Hall with students on the expanded verandah, c. 1910.
Main Hall, c. 1912
Detail of Cottey students sitting on the steps and veranda, c. 1910.
Rosemary Hall, Main Hall, and Stockard Hall
Rosemary, Main Hall, and Stockard Hall, c. 1915.
Main Hall, c. 1930s
Main Hall, c. 1930s.
Main Hall, c. 1938
Main Hall, c. 1938.5
Main Hall drive, c. 1938
Main Hall driveway, c. 1938.5
Main Hall from drive, c. 1938
Main Hall from the drive, c. 1938.5
Main Hall, c. 1938
Main Hall, c. 1938.9
Cottey students pose on the steps of Main Hall, c. 1939
Cottey students pose on the steps of Main Hall, c. 1939.11
Rosemary and Main Hall, c. 1940
Southern view of Rosemary and Main Hall, c. 1940.
Main Hall, c. 1941
Main Hall, c. 1941.12
Main Hall, c. 1952
Main Hall, c. 1952.13
Main Hall, c. 1952
Main Hall under snow, c. 1952.13
Main Hall, 1960s
Main Hall, 1960s.
Main Hall in winter, 1965
Main Hall in winter, 1965.16
Main Hall, c. 1966
Main Hall c. 1966.17
Main Hall with international students, c. 1966
International students stand in front of Main Hall, c. 1966.17
Main Hall, 1976
A vintage night shot, c. 1976.20
Main Hall, 1976
Cottey senior Tracy Thweatt walks past Main Hall, 1976.23
Main Hall sketch, c. 1977
Main Hall illustration, c. 1977.25
Main Hall, c. 1979
Main Hall, c. 1979.26
Main Hall, c. 1980
Main Hall, c. 1980.29
Main Hall and Rosemary Hall, c. 1980
The central corridor between Rosemary Hall and Main Hall was demolished in 1981.27
  International Circle, 1981
The International Circle outside Main Hall, 1981. The flags represent the international students at Cottey.28
Main Hall Floor Plans
Cottey College floor plan, 1890
Floor plan, 1890.31
Cottey College floor plan, 1894
Floor plan, 1894.31 Stoves for heat, gas lights. Note the misspelling.
Cottey College floor plan, 1900
Floor plan, 1900.31 Steam heat, gas lights. The "earth cellar," built of stone, would be a cool place to store food.
Cottey College floor plan, 1906
Floor plan, 1906.31 Steam heat, gas lights.
  Cottey College floor plan, c. 1914
Floor plan, 1914.31 Steam heat, electric lights, and a night watchman. Note the mention of asbestos.

Works Cited:

  1. "1908 Cottey Catalogue." Nevada, MO: Cottey College. 1908. Print.
  2. "Nevada Souvenir." c. 1910. Web.
  3. Sphinx, The. Yearbook. Nevada, MO: Cottey College, 1915. Print.
  4. "Notes From Cottey College." The P.E.O. Record Dec. 1937: 18. Print.
  5. Sphinx, The. Yearbook. Nevada, MO: Cottey College, 1938. Print.
  6. Farley, Floella P. "News From P.E.O.'s College." The P.E.O. Record Feb. 1938: 18-19. Print.
  7. Reeves, Winona Evans. "From the Editor's Desk." The P.E.O. Record Mar. 1938: 21. Print.
  8. Stockard, Dr. Orpha. "Cottey College Interiors." The P.E.O. Record Apr. 1938: 5-7. Print.
  9. Stockard, Dr. Orpha. "An Ideal for the College Girl." The P.E.O. Record Sept. 1938: 15-16. Print.
  10. Mitchell, Dr. Marjorie. "Three Features of Timely Interest on the P.E.O. College." The P.E.O. Record Nov. 1938: 3-7. Print.
  11. Cottey Junior College promotional booklet. c. 1939. Print.
  12. Cottey Junior College promotional booklet. c. 1940. Print.
  13. Sphinx, The. Yearbook. Nevada, MO: Cottey College, 1952. Print.
  14. Troesch, Helen DeRusha. The Life of Virginia Alice Cottey Stockard. Wayside Press, Inc., 1955. Print.
  15. Stockard, Dr. Orpha. Cottey College: The First 75 Years. Joplin, MO: Joplin Printing Co., 1961. Print.
  16. Sphinx, The. Yearbook. Nevada, MO: Cottey College, 1965. Print.
  17. Sphinx, The. Yearbook. Nevada, MO: Cottey College, 1966. Print.
  18. "Miss Cottey Started Her School in 1884." The P.E.O. Record Mar. 1969: 17-24. Print.
  19. Milam, Dr. Evelyn L. "Cottey: Admissions." The P.E.O. Record Dec. 1975: 7-8. Print.
  20. Sphinx, The. Yearbook. Nevada, MO: Cottey College, 1976. Print.
  21. Milam, Dr. Evelyn L. "A Look Ahead for Cottey." The P.E.O. Record Feb. 1976: 14. Print.
  22. "Cottey-P.E.O. Partnership ... Story of Campus Expansion." The P.E.O. Record Mar. 1976: 2-5. Print.
  23. Thweatt, Tracy. "Cottey Life: A Personal View." The P.E.O. Record Apr. 1976: 4-6. Print.
  24. Hawkins, Cornelia. "Blanche Skiff Ross Memorial Library." The P.E.O. Record June 1976: 2-5. Print.
  25. Tinsley, Beverly. "Fifty Years of Progress." The P.E.O. Record Oct. 1977: 4-10. Print.
  26. Milam, Dr. Evelyn. "The Future of Cottey’s Main Hall." The P.E.O. Record May 1979: 11-13. Print.
  27. Milam, Dr. Evelyn. "Main Hall – Pride of Cottey." The P.E.O. Record June 1980: 6-8. Print.
  28. "Diary of a Convention." The P.E.O. Record Nov./Dec. 1981: 23-25. Print.
  29. Maxwell, Kim. “Completed: Main Hall Renovation.” The P.E.O. Record Jan. 1982: 2-4. Print.
  30. "One Vision ~ 125 Years!" Cottey Viewpoint. Spring 2009. Print.
  31. "Sanborn Maps for Missouri." University of Missouri Digital Library. Web.
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