Mary Hobbs restored to a new, clean look

While it may look old on the outside, Mary Hobbs Hall sports the newest dorm renovations on campus. From rocking chairs lining the porch to ornate chandeliers illuminating the hallways, Mary Hobbs sports hotel-quality living for many Guilford College women.

“Mary Hobbs is one of the most beautiful spaces on campus,” said junior Anna Lichtiger. “It has a nice history and tradition. Plus, everything is pristine.”

Formally known as New Garden Hall, Mary Hobbs was constructed in 1907, making it the oldest residential building on campus. In 1933, it was renamed to honor Mary Mendenhall Hobbs who died in 1930.

While Mary Hobbs has stood on the west side of campus for over a century, by 2009 the dorm’s interior needed to be remodeled.

“We needed to complete a full building renovation,” said Facilities and Energy Manager Brett Hacker. “Some parts of the building were truly in a defunct state.”

The renovations kept the historical aspect of the building intact while updating the hall’s safety and compliance to the Americans with Disabilities Act.

“There are now two laundry facilities in the building,” said Hacker. “We also installed wider doors and an ADA-compliant kitchen.”

While the Guilford community gathered a portion of the necessary $2.1 million for rennovations, most of the support came from former residents of the hall, known as the Ladies of Hobbs.

“They have a passion for Guilford and Hobbs Hall, and (they) have taken it upon themselves to donate their own money,” said Assistant Director of Facilities Brian Wenger. “(They) have gone out to encourage people who have previously lived in Hobbs to contribute to this project. They dedicated their time to the College and to their hall.”

Spearheaded by Carolyn Harmon ‘64, these alumni have raised over $1.5 million for the project.

“Most of the furniture in the parlors was donated,” said Office of Advancement Manager of Prospect Research Gertrude Beal. “We had a little meeting, and (Harmon) said, ‘Ladies, we don’t have any money for furniture.’ … Rosemary Lentzen ‘64 gets up and says, ‘Let’s go girls. Get in the car.’ And, we went out looking.”

Last fall, the renovations of Mary Hobbs were met with slight setbacks after a small fire broke out on the second floor.

“In fact, fire safety was one of the reasons for redoing the dorm,” said Beal. “Now it’s not only a beautiful space, but it’s a safe space.”

And, the residents are quite pleased with the renovations.

“This does not look like a residence hall anymore,” said senior and Mary Hobbs residential advisor Stephanie Byer. “It looks like a house.”

These changes have also inspired residents to bring back some traditions of the original hall.

“This cooperative dorm allowed girls to live together, cook together and clean together,” said Beal. “Close friendships developed through this cooperative living arrangement and created a bond for the Hobbs women through the decades.”

While the cooperative nature dissolved in the 1970s, the hall still functions as a cohesive unit.

“We’re going to have community dinner nights where everyone contributes a little bit of something, and we all can sit down and have dinner together,” said Byer. “This is our first attempt to have everyone working together.”

Today, Mary Hobbs stands as a structurally sound and safe community in which young women can live and grow together.

“We want to bring back that strong community feeling, that sense of ownership and sisterhood,” said Byer. “(Mary Hobbs Hall) is our space, and this is our family.”