Hope College was built in 1822 through the munificence of Nicholas Brown. In 1821 a committee of the Corporation had been appointed to consider erecting another building and was authorized to select a suitable site and solicit donations. On January 13, 1823 the committee reported that a lot had been purchased from Nathan Waterman, on which an “elegant brick building ... in length one hundred and twenty feet, width forty feet, four stories high, and containing forty-eight rooms,” had been erected. The best part of the committee’s communication was that, because of Nicholas Brown’s generosity, “no part of the funds placed at the disposal of the Committee ... had been used.” Mr. Brown’s only request was that the building be named “Hope College” for Hope Brown Ives, his only surviving sister and the wife of his business partner, Thomas P. Ives. At this time, the Corporation voted that the old College edifice be named “University Hall.” The cost of Hope College was about $20,000.
Life in Hope College in the nineteenth century was not luxurious. Water was carried in pitchers from the well in back of the building. Waste water was deposited in a large iron bowl in the south end of the building where the only drain pipe was located. In the winter when the pipe froze, the students would simply throw the water out the windows. Heat was provided by coal stoves in the rooms, and every room had two closets, one for clothing and one for coal. The ashes were deposited in large iron ash cans chained to the walls in the hallways. When gas was introduced, there being only one meter for the dormitory, the students formed the “Hope College Gas Light Association,” the purpose of which was to have the treasurer of the association (usually a freshman who mistook the office for an honor) collect from the residents and pay the bill. Once, when the bill went unpaid, the Providence Gas Company removed the meter, and there was no gas until a ball player, crawling under Hope College to retrieve a ball (there was no cellar until 1890) discovered how easy it was to reconnect the severed gas pipes with a rubber hose. After that gas was free until the gas company noticed the brightly lighted building. In 1904 showers were installed and the rent was raised.
Hope College was reconstructed in 1959 and rededicated at Commencement that year. At that time residence in Hope College was to be provided in sixteen single and 31 double rooms for 78 upperclassmen selected for “high ability, a good record, and firm academic intentions.” This idea was described by Dean Charles H. Watts II as “an attempt to single out those students who really are committed to academic work.” The idea is to make them conscious of themselves and to make the Campus conscious of them. But, as President Keeney said at the rededication, “They won’t all be Phi Betes, for some serious people are quite dull.” Today Hope College continues to be used as a dormitory.