Jackson Hall (1855-1908)

On August 14, 1855, members of the Lyceum of Natural History gathered in Jackson Hall to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the student scientific society and the dedication of their new headquarters. The Hall was constructed through funds donated by Nathan Jackson, a generous contributor to a variety of Williams ventures and uncle of James Orton (Class of 1855). Orton, a professor of Natural History, eventually lost his life while exploring the Amazon. Located at the southeast corner of the current Berkshire Quadrangle, the main brick building housed a gallery of minerals, shells, skeletons, stuffed birds, etc. gathered by the students. The tower contained further specimens and the Lyceum's meeting room. Over the door to Jackson Hall was placed a giant bronze eagle "presented by our generous benefactor, modeled after one exhibited in the United States Crystal Palace, measuring seven feet from tip to tip of the wings and weighing seven hundred pounds." ( Address before the Lyceum of Natural History , 1855, p.30) The Hall was torn down in 1908, in part because the college curriculum had absorbed the sciences so well that the Lyceum was fast approaching its demise.