Did you know that the land upon which Skidmore College now sits can be traced back to the Kayaderosseras Patent, a land grant signed by Anne, Queen of Great Britain in 1708? Ownership of the land was disputed until the late 1760s, when a negotiated settlement was finalized. In the 1770s, the land was surveyed and subdivided, at which time a portion was purchased by Jacob Walton from the heirs of Rip Van Dam. Walton’s son, Henry, inherited the property in 1816, and, subsequently, built an estate he named “Woodlawn.” In 1879 Judge Henry Hilton bought Woodlawn from Henry Walton’s heirs and rechristened the property “Woodlawn Park.” Hilton upgraded the property, adding 25 miles of roadway for carriages, a mansion, stables, lakes and an athletic field. After Hilton’s death in 1899, the property fell into decline and was sold as eight parcels at public auction in 1916.
In 1960, the land was purchased and donated to the college by Mr. and Mrs. J. Erik Jonsson of Dallas, TX. Jonsson, a co-founder of Texas Instruments and subsequent mayor of Dallas, was a trustee of the college at the time of the gift. In addition, the Jonsson’s daughter Margaret had attended Skidmore College for two years as a member of the class of 1960. During their 1961 fall meeting, the Skidmore College Trustees authorized the college to proceed with building a new campus on the Woodlawn site. “This action by the Trustees means more than just new buildings on a new site,” emphasized President Val H. Wilson. “It signals the beginning of an era for Skidmore that will open the way to enrichment of college academic offerings and achievements.”
Construction began in November, 1963 and the New Campus, as it was then known, officially opened on January 2, 1966, when the first 528 students moved into four new residence halls: Kimball, Penfield, McClellan and Wilmarth. Construction kept apace, as the Lucy Scribner Library opened in the summer of 1966, the Therese W. Filene Music Building in 1967 and the Dana Science Center and Bolton Hall in 1968. In 1980, the site was named officially the Jonsson Campus.
The Department of Special Collections in the Lucy Scribner Library holds many collections related to the history of Skidmore College. Some of these materials and collections are now accessible digitally via the library’s Digital Collections, including all the images and information which were used to construct this brief post.
Credits: Eromdiks, 1964, p.68 (top); Absolute Trustees’ Sale, 1916 (middle); “Skidmore News,” October 12, 1967, front page (bottom).