From Ricketts House to Ricketts Hall

Adjacent to Manning Hall, with an almost identical structure and facade, Ricketts Hall is known primarily as the home of RSC’s Physical and Occupational Therapy programs. That has been the case since 1995, anyway. Originally, Ricketts was a single row house that served exclusively as a dormitory for First Year students.

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Life at Ricketts House, circa 1954

For the full history of Ricketts, let’s go back to the early 1950’s. At that time, the Russell Sage College campus was largely centered around the intersection of First and Ferry Streets. The James Wheelock Clark Library (now the Shea Learning Center) was only recently built; busy Ferry Street brought traffic through the center of campus as the tunnel had not yet been constructed; Bush Memorial was still First Presbyterian Church; and with the exception of Vail House, the campus had not yet expanded past Congress Street. Lewis Froman was the president of the college, and had bold ambitions for the development of its buildings and grounds. Enrollment was also up, and new student residences were sorely needed. One solution was to start purchasing and utilizing the properties on Congress Street across from Sage Park.

Back then – years before the construction of present-day Manning and Ricketts – half of the Congress Street block between First and Second Streets was known as “Park Place.” Park Place began at the alley across from Vail, and consisted of three row houses (numbered 5, 4, and 3) and, at the corner of Congress and Second, a building called the Rynaldo Apartments.

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The Rynaldo Apartments, Congress and Second St.

The house at 5 Park Place bordered the alley and was formerly the home of Palmer C. Ricketts. (Yep, Ricketts as in Ricketts Hall.) Palmer C. Ricketts had been the ninth president of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, and not unlike Sage’s President Froman, is remembered as a master builder who greatly expanded the physical plant of his college. He passed away in 1934, bequeathing the home at 5 Park Place to his wife. She, in turn, bequeathed it to RPI, and RPI sold the property to Sage for $14,000 in 1953.
Having just purchased the Ricketts’ home, Froman decided to turn the newly acquired property into a dormitory. Ricketts House opened to first year students the following fall. It housed only 22 students, but small dormitories were considered ideal for incoming freshmen as they traversed their first year of college life. By the spring of 1955, however, housing needs on campus were once again outpacing Froman’s building plans.
Luckily, by that point, Sage owned the other two Park Place row houses. Just next door to Ricketts House, 4 Park Place had served as a fraternity house for RPI students. Back in 1951, seeking to consolidate RSC’s campus, President Froman had traded the John Paine Building (which was bequeathed to Sage in 1946), for the Phi Kappa Phi house. He threw in an additional $10,000  for good measure — sounds like a steal for RPI. Anyway, after the purchase, RSC did not utilize the property right away, but continued to rent the house out to RPI fraternity members. (And in case you’re wondering, this is why Phi Kappa Phi now occupies “The Castle” on Second Street.) Sage also owned the building at 3 Park Place, referred to in President Froman’s reports as the, “Rynaldo Annex,” which was rented out as apartments to three different families.

So, in the spring of 1955, these two row houses adjacent to Ricketts seemed like a quick way to increase student housing on campus. Sage ended leasing agreements with the tenants of the two properties, and began joining them to Ricketts the same year. All in all, the renovations cost about $6,000 and RSC construction staff worked quickly to make the space available to resident students. By 1956, Ricketts House consisted of three different houses, with a collective capacity to house 64 students rather than 22. As the dormitory had tripled in size, it was thereafter used as a residence for upperclassmen.

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A dorm room in Ricketts House, circa 1954.

Ricketts House did not last long, however. The entire structure was later razed, and in 1967, just two years after Manning replaced the Rynaldo Apartments, the current structure was built in its place. The new building was named Ricketts Hall, and was intended to sustain Ricketts’ function as a dorm for upperclassmen. Though Ricketts has also been utilized for office and classroom space since the late 80’s, it has continued to serve as a residence for Sage students ever since.

Did you ever live in Ricketts Hall? Or, do you remember when it was Ricketts House? We’d love to hear your stories!

 

Sources:

Annual Reports to the Board of Trustees, 1955. President Froman Collection, RG 1120-05.     Box 1, Folder 6. The Sage Colleges Archives & Special Collections, The Sage Colleges, Troy, New York.

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