Sayles Hall was dedicated on June 4, 1881, a memorial to William Clark Sayles 1878 donated by his father, William F. Sayles. Young Sayles, who entered Brown in 1874, died on February 13, 1876. On June 14, 1878 his father wrote to President Robinson offering $50,000 for a building “which shall be exclusively and forever devoted to lectures and recitations, and to meetings on academic occasions.” His letter added, “I have selected this Commencement, when my dear son, if living, would have graduated, for the expression of what I hope will be regarded with favor, in order that when his classmates are conferring credit on their Alma Mater, his brief life may also not be without a beneficial influence on the institution he loved so well.”
Sayles Hall, designed by Alpheus C. Morse, is of the Romanesque style. The front section, 35 by 75 feet, is two stories high, with a central tower one story higher topped by a hipped roof and dormer windows, and was designed to house recitation rooms. The back, or east, section, which has only one story with a gabled roof, housed a large meeting hall, which was soon put to use for alumni dinners. The exterior is of rock-faced red Westerly granite trimmed with reddish-brown Longmeadow stone, with a slated roof ornamented with red bands. The building soon began to fill another need, as the baseball team found it a convenient place to train in the off-season. In 1912 the Department of Economics moved from the basement of Sayles Hall into the former library (Robinson Hall), making space for the Department of Geology.
The organ in Sayles Hall was a gift in 1903 of Lucian Sharpe 1893 in memory of his parents. His letter to President Faunce offering the gift stipulated that the instrument should be selected by Professor Joseph N. Ashton and Dr. Jules Jordan. To receive the organ, which weighed about 25 tons, the old gallery in Sayles Hall was replaced by a new one with a projecting center, under the direction of architects Stone, Carpenter and Willson. The organ was built by the Hutchings-Votey Organ Company of Boston and has more than three thousand pipes. At Commencement of 1903 the opening recital on the organ was given by eminent Belgian organist Chevalier August Wiegand. In 1924 Mrs. Lownes endowed an annual organ recital known as “Edgar J. Lownes Memory Day,” a memorial to her late husband. In 1949 the organ received its first complete renovation, which involved the installation of a new console laid out by A. W. Imhoff of the Schantz Organ Company. The latest restoration by the Potter-Rathbun Company of Cranston was undertaken in 1990. The Brown organ is now the largest remaining Hutchings-Votey organ of its type, as the others have been dismantled and replaced rather than repaired. The restored organ was rededicated on Commencement weekend of 1992 with a performance by University organist Wayne Schneider of a new work by Stephen Scott ’69 M.A.
The little chapel
The “Little Chapel” came into being in 1945 toward the end of World War II, when Chaplain Arthur L. Washburn and Vice-President James P. Adams arranged to reopen a little room off the main hall on the first floor which had several years earlier had a small altar placed in it at the request of Professor Edmund L. Loughnan for meetings of undergraduate prayer groups. On the altar in the Little Chapel was the Book of Remembrance, presented by the Providence Brown Club, which contained the names of Brown men who died in service in World War II. Dr. Washburn announced that the chapel was open daily “until 2200” for “quiet thought and prayer.” An unexpected use of the chapel was the marriage there of at least one Brown graduate in 1945. On April 23, 1946 a stained glass window in the Little Chapel was dedicated to the chaplains in the United States Service. The window, 57 by 21 inches, was designed by Providence artist Robert Barrie of St. Andrews Stained Glass Studio and was accompanied by a memorial plaque, “Erected in tribute to the chaplains in the armed services of the United States.” The window, primarily in red, white and blue, had as its theme “Brave Men of All Races Fighting the Wars of One Nation in One World.” The central medallion depicts Christopher Columbus planting the Spanish flag in the new world. The top medallion shows American infantrymen disembarking in France. The bottom medallion, in the form of a globe emphasizes that the servicemen and women shown have been participating in a World War. Between the medallions are bands which join at shipwheels, symbols of the Navy, and oak leaves and acorns, symbols of the nation’s growth and strength. Four half medallions surrounding the principal one depict a minute man and cannon of the Revolutionary War, a cavalryman of the War with Mexico, a color-bearer and a drummer boy of the Civil War, and the bombardment of Morro Castle in the War with Spain. Four corner medallions symbolize freedom – a town crier symbolizes freedom of speech; a clergyman and his meeting house, freedom of worship; a miller and his mill, freedom from want; and a Colonial child planting a tree with the help of an Indian, freedom from fear. At the dedication three chaplains spoke – Rev. Raymond S. Hall ’31, the army’s first “flying chaplain,” Father John F. Ryan, O.P., chief of chaplains of the 6th Army, and Rabbi Roland B. Gittlesohn, chaplain of the 5th Marine Division.