Dwight Memorial Chapel, created in 1932 from part of the former college library, is a soaring, inspirational space on a more intimate scale than Battell. I visited Dwight Hall occasionally to volunteer for community service and enjoyed the lovely quiet oasis of the chapel. It was to become far more memorable. One afternoon in September of senior year, the Russian Chorus was rehearsing for its season opener at Woolsey Hall. We ran through the songs, spending most of our time repeating portions that needed work but also singing them in their entirety. While singing one Russian Orthodox hymn, I had the sense every member of the chorus was so completely and perfectly connected with this song that it could not have been sung better. It was truly awe inspiring. Immediately afterward I saw other singers looking a bit stunned. This, I said to myself, was a Maslovian peak experience. The spiritual quality of Dwight Chapel doubtless contributed to this extraordinary occasion.
– Stu Gardiner
The Dwight Hall pipe organ was always locked. It was an impressive instrument, with pipes installed along the walls and a console with two keyboards, full bass foot-pedals and tens of “stops” and buttons controlling the sound.
One late evening as I passed through, I noticed – it was open! I sat down and began to play, playing music from Bach to the Beatles and beyond. The glorious sound filled the hall and I was entranced. No one seemed to hear and no one interfered. I began to sing with the organ and even attempted Kol Nidrei, the solemn Yom Kippur prayer. Perhaps a sacrilege – but beautiful.
The hours flew by as I was immersed in the music. I had a final exam in the morning; it was my music theory class. I thought, better to make music on this magnificent organ than to study – or rest up – for the exam. I stayed the entire night with the organ. And the exam? I suppose that went alright too.
– Orrin Persky
I do love the modern stuff: the A and A bldg., the museum garden with its David Smith sculpture, the Ingalls Rink, the modern world of Stiles and Morse, the Beinecke beauty. But my world at Yale was much more described by the Gothic. Gothic, gothic, gothic. Or the pseudo Gothic of the 1930’s creations of hardworking Italian stone workers. Harkness Tower, JE and Branford, my beautiful senior room with its enormous bay window with the leaded panes. Gothic without even asking. I was allotted it by lottery in the room selection at the end of junior year. And then, Dwight Hall, the little gem, sitting by itself, all compact. A little castle, with salons, chapel, offices, and rooms and rooms. I lived in those rooms during the spring of 1970. Meetings non-stop, work on the Strike News publication, endless telephoning on the Watts line(provided by the University, no less). A visit to elegant Woodbridge Hall once or twice to see Kingman Brewster and his assistant, Peter Jacobi (whom I knew from Kent School days), in the splendor of the small sitting room on the second floor. All neoclassical. And then back to Gothic Dwight Hall. It was also the refuge from tear gas on May Day weekend. Running through the Gothic darkness with lemons and vinegar. We had one room on the second floor which was just carpet and a tape running of the sounds of waves breaking, the meditation room: early high tech atmosphere, for better work concentration. And then I spent all summer at the Hall, running a drop in center. There was a small kitchen in back of the common room, for soup making. And the high ceilings allowed for coolness in the not New Haven summer. As for my JE room, during May Day weekend, it was used as a brief refuge for Allen Ginsberg to chill out, but I wasn’t there at the time. I was in the Hall and just gave someone the keys. Gothic.
– Thomas Walker
Dwight Hall attracted many activist-minded students. These were almost exclusively amateur agitators applying what they viewed as Christian values to society’s ills. It was great fun! David Warren, later president of Wesleyan University, drafted me into participation in a summer program for 12-14 year olds from an inner-city school and a suburban school. It was a pivotal time in my emotional and educational growth as I had never borne responsibility for communicating with young people of that age and from such diverse backgrounds.
Dwight Hall was accessible from the street side as well as from the Old Campus. I believe the building remains much the same, and am sure the members continue to pursue socially responsible goals.
– Dan Bottoms