On Ben's Farm

A New View
No more giant pine flagpoles, but a new granite wall now graces the Great Lawn

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Flagpole raising ceremony
BANNER YEAR: The 1918 flagpole raising and ceremony. No photo seems to have been taken of the explosion and its freakish result.

On a late summer day in 1918, word spread quickly around town that the T-Hall flagpole's stump was going to be blown out of its cement footing at noon. The original flagpole, made in 1897 from one of the giant white pine trees in College Woods, was rotting and needed to be replaced.

At the time, the college was providing vocational training courses to the Student Army Training Corps for the U.S. War Department. Lyman Batchelder, instructor of mechanical engineering, selected a group of student soldiers to make a new flagpole. Another tall pine was cut from College Woods and hauled to the Thompson Hall lawn, where it was turned into an 85-foot pole. But as preparations were made to remove the old pole, it was discovered that it had been set in a 10-foot-deep hole filled with cement and boulders.

A few unlucky soldiers began the agonizingly time-consuming task of breaking the cement and stone with sledgehammers and drills. Then someone suggested that removing the stump would speed up the process. After some discussion, the soldiers decided to give it a try. A hole was drilled in the stump and a stick of dynamite inserted into the hole. Bathchelder's son, Leon '29, was in the crowd that had gathered to watch the event, and later recalled what happened.

"The bell hadn't struck more than a couple of times when it went off with a boom. The stub shot straight up in the air as though shot from a gun, which in effect it was. It went about as high as T-Hall, turned end for end and made a perfect entrance back in the hole from which it had come but with the other end up! A more surprised group of people you never saw; no one would believe it but there it was. Fortunately it did not go all the way back in, so by setting up some chain falls, it was then easily removed."

Flagpole raising ceremony
BANNER YEAR: The 1918 flagpole raising and ceremony. No photo seems to have been taken of the explosion and its freakish result.

After the pole was set, the Army Training Corps' concrete division created a circular seating area around the flagpole and sidewalks leading to T-Hall. This became the look of the campus for the next 93 years.

In December of 1942, a Nor'easter blew down the 25-year old pole, and ROTC units and Scabbard and Blade, a national military honorary society, came up with the money to replace it. The new pole was designed to resemble the main mast of a ship, symbolizing New Hampshire's 18th-century shipbuilding industry. This time, two giant pine trees were selected from College Woods and the pole, once completed, stood 101 feet tall. The new pole was dedicated at a special Armistice Day convocation in November 1943.

Great Lawn current
Lisa Nugent/UNH Photographic Services

The pole stood for 11 years before the winds from Hurricane Edna broke off the top in September 1954. This time the trees from College Woods were spared, and a steel replacement was funded in 1955 by the Class of 1930.

When the rusted steel pole broke last winter, the university decided to replace it with a fiberglass one and improve the surrounding area. Repairs to the deteriorated cement base and seating, it turned out, would have cost just as much as a replacement. So over the summer a new curved granite wall—with the words "University of New Hampshire" carved into it—was erected with funding support from the Classes of 1942, 1946, 1952, 1953, 1954, 1955, 1957, 1959 and 1960 plus the Southwest Coast Florida Alumni Chapter.

Perhaps this will be the new look of T-Hall's "front yard" for the next 93 years. ~

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