Sessions House (1710)

Sessions House is a colonial residence at 109 Elm Street in Northampton that is now used as a Smith College dormitory. It was built around 1710 (or perhaps as early as 1700) by Captain Jonathan Hunt (1665-1738) and was the first house in Northampton to be built outside the early settlement’s protective stockade. The house has a staircase that was originally designed as a secret passageway for the family to hide in during Native American raids. The house passed to the Henshaw family by marriage and was later owned by other families. Eventually, around 1900, it passed to Mrs. Ruth Huntington Sessions, who ran it as off campus housing for Smith College students. Born in Cambridge in 1859, Ruth Huntington moved with her parents to Syracuse, New York when her father, Frederic Dan Huntington, became Episcopal Bishop of Central New York. In 1880, her family sent her to Europe, where she studied piano under Clara Schumann. In 1887 she married Archibald Lowery Sessions and moved with him to New York City. A social activist and writer (her memoir, Sixty Odd: A Personal History, was published in 1936), Sessions (d. 1946) spent her summers at the Porter-Phelps-Huntington House in Hadley, given to her by her father, and her winters in Northampton. She sold the Northampton house to Smith College in 1921.

At 105 Elm Street, is a residence built in 1872 by E. Pierson. At one time it was the White House Inn. Purchased by Smith College in 1969, for a time it housed male students who were attending Smith on exchange programs. It became a residence for women in 1977. Now called Sessions Annex, it is operated with the main house as a one house unit called Sessions Complex.

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