Red Tower Memories
We asked UNH Alumni to share their memories of the Red Tower. The Durham Historical Association also shared some memories.
Gertrude Smart Wells
My grandfather, John H. Smart, was the caretaker at the Onderdonk Estate which included the main house "Red Tower," the Billiard House, the Stable, the Chapel, the Laundry, the Herdsman's House (referred to in 1907 as the Dairy) and barn, the Gardener's House, the Pump House and the Wright House. Grandfather died in 1925 shortly before I was born and my father, Forrest H. Smart, assumed his duties, bringing me as a newborn and my mother, Elizabeth Batchelder Smart, to live in the Coachman's Quarters at The Stable in July 1925.
It was a wonderful place to live. My playground was made up of all the fields and woods of the Estate best depicted in Memories of Red Tower (see slideshow) in the pictures entitled "Looking south from Red Tower" and "View from the Chapel." The large bird house was still there but on the ground rather than high in the air. A beautiful stone wall was at the end of a path leading from the Stable past the Pump House separating the upper grounds from the lower fields. Large granite slabs were placed on each end of the wall raising the height of the wall by about two feet. These became
forts and my friends and I conducted many acorn battles there. All of the paths through the woods and in the area of the Chapel were easily recognizable. The gazebos, though beginning to deteriorate, were still beautiful places to spend a summer afternoon. The iron fence on the right
hand side of the Red Tower driveway was ornamented with a horse's head. I rode many imaginary miles with that horse as my faithful steed.
Read more from Gertude Smart Wells.
Charlie Pinkham lived in the Red Tower when it was known as the Tower Tavern in the early 1940s. It was painted yellow and was a boarding house. The Tavern was sold in 1946. The new owners renovated it as apartments and painted the exterior red.
I had four or five roommates in a large room said to be the ladies dressing room for getting pretty before the balls which were said to have taken place in the ballroom which was empty during my stay. Since I was to go from UNH ROTC direct to the Army later in 1944 having a few roommates was a treat compared to later events. And when I returned to Durham in 1946 we were in three high bunk beds in New Hampshire Hall waiting for dorm completion that was not a fun idea. We sure were happy to go to the brand new dorm Englehart.
No. There were no women at the Tavern and I'm sure we would have known!!
I really think there was little social life at the Tavern, or much of any where in the early months of 1944. However in summer school that year the pool near New Hampshire Hall was a scene of social activity as was College Woods.
The funniest thing about living at the Tavern was having high school friends visit as they finished their senior year. They misbehaved with the freedom of college life, and didn't want to go home after the weekend.
Stephen P. Weglarz '50
Dr. Stephen P. Weglarz was not a resident. He worked across the street from the Red Tower for Delia Wilmarth Cressey while attending UNH.
The Red Tower is a place where Delia and I shared many delicious meals together, so I have many fond memories spending time there. Delia's full name is Delia Wilmarth Cressey.
When I was a student at UNH, in my junior year, I went to Thompson Hall looking for work. I came from a very poor family and needed to find work to help support myself. I was sent to work for Delia Cressey, but she lived in a building across the street from the Red Tower and that's where I did housework for her. The clothes I wore must have been shabby because it wasn't long before Delia arranged for me to be fully outfitted with clothes downtown at Brad's.
I don't remember when she moved into the Red Tower, for after graduating from UNH in 1950 I went off to Tufts University School of Medicine in Boston. I visited Delia many times in the Red Tower, where she lived in the second floor apartment, during summer vacations and after my marriage to Barbara K. Szypula. On one of our visits to her we had our son Stephen with us and he was sitting on her lap and suddenly his face turned pink and we were glad he had a diaper on. Those are the memories I have of the Red Tower.
The class of 1950 was the biggest class at the time because it was comprised of veterans of World War II taking advantage of the G.I. Bill of Rights. I saved mine for Tufts because being a New Hampshire native I found the money to pay the cost, which the first year was a total, I mean total, was $500.00. I lived in East-West Hall $32.00/ semester, tuition $80.00/semester and meals were $10.00/ week. Such a deal.
I love UNH. I am grateful for the education I got there and with my wife Barbara we have set up a scholarship fund in the name of my parents and contribute to it yearly. I was the first one in my family of 11 children to go to college.
Lisa Vosburgh (Earl) '75
My name is Lisa Vosburgh (Earl) and I lived on the second floor of the red tower (literally in the tower part of the house) for two years ... 1973 - 1975 when I graduated from UNH with a BA in Psychology.
My roommates were Susan Terry, Liz Ball and Maggie Woisard (one semester). They were in the theatre department so we would have alot of "creative" people stopping by. I remember our record player playing music by Jackson Browne, Joni Mitchell, the Band, Eagles, Grateful Dead, Rolling Stones, and the Allman Brothers.
It was a great place to live ... easy walk to campus ... before the one way streets ... I remember the store "Spectrum India" at the bottom of the hill where we would get all our "hippie" long dresses & skirts.
Kim Chandler '91
I lived behind the Red Tower in the larger of the two white houses in the back of the parking lot. The house we lived in (1989-91) was the Billiard House of the Hamilton Smith Estate. The smaller house behind that was the servants quarters.
I lived there with Jill Harrington '90, Dana Fascano '90, Alison Ball '91, Ann Chamberlin '91, Kristin Plapis '91, Kristen Walter '91, and Lynn Kelly '91.
I did some research back then about the property at the Durham Historical Society. The lady who worked there at the time (she was elderly so I assume she has passed on since) knew a great deal. She told me of the chapel that is nearby and the gravesites. Those were neat to find. She also had many photos of the property, inside and out.
The Billiard House had absolutely beautiful woodwork on all the walls, upstairs and downstairs. There is a large picture window in the back with a bench seat underneath. The kitchen had been added on at a later date, as was a small bedroom on the first floor that they added when we moved in. The upstairs had one "single" room and two "double" rooms; the second double room was over the kitchen and had been added on later as well. It had a dirt floor basement and a porch out back. We had one bathroom for all six of us. The house was freshly painted when we lived there.
At the time the owner would only rent to women, and I remember some men were going to sue him for discrimination, so my senior year he started renting to men. But he would not allow cohabitation in the same apartment. He used to sit in the parking lot in the mornings (very early) and watch to see who left the buildings. If he saw any men, or women for that matter, that he knew didn't live there, he would come knock on the door and threaten to kick us out for having people sleep over. He claimed there was a fire code for the number of people who could occupy the house at one time. We all had boyfriends at the time so quite frequently someone would be accosted on their way out the door in the cold mornings. The party line was that we were up all night studying. It was like having a dorm-father or something.
We had two woodchucks there that we named "Woody" and "Chuck." The back lawn was such a great spot for cookouts and gatherings. In '91 all our families came for our graduation party and it was lovely despite being 100 degrees that day. The living room was spacious enough to hold many people. I used to have the Student Senate parties there for Christmas and the end of the year. With six of us, there was always a stream of people coming and going; it was a lot of fun living there.
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