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1923 – Sutton Hall

Sutton Hall

An influx of male students after World War I, meant the Normal School needed additional housing for men.

A group of Cheney businessmen used private bond funding to erect a new men’s dormitory.

Map showing the location of Sutton Hall
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Women students outnumbered the men in the early days of the Normal School. There were enough male students by 1899 to field football and basketball teams, but their low numbers meant they could easily find places to live in “club houses” and boarding houses in town. At the end of the war, the number of men enrolling at the school grew rapidly.

In order to respond quickly to the need, a group of businessmen and the Board of Trustees came to an agreement. The businessmen would provide the funds for building a men’s dormitory by issuing private bonds to the school that would be repaid later.

cars parked in front of building under construction
Sutton Hall under construction

In honor of the service William J. Sutton had given to the school and the community, they dedicated the new hall in his name on 21 September 1923.

view of building from northeast
The new dorm was dedicated 21 September 1923.

Sutton Hall is 3-stories that looks like the letter H, made of brick with a concrete foundation and a flat roof. It is 133 feet long with two 111-foot wings. Originally, there were sleeping porches at the rear of the building. The only remaining evidence of them is an odd interior brick wall in the rear part of the building that once enclosed those sleeping porches.

Floor plan of dormitory
Front entrance faces Showalter Hall

In those early days, dormitories had an adult, on-site, “house mother” to make sure the rules for student behavior were followed. In 1930, Joseph and Winona Hungate, along with their youngest son, moved into a comfortable apartment located next to the formal lounge in Sutton Hall. Curtained, glass French doors from the lounge were the entrance to their apartment.

While Sutton Hall was a men’s dorm, Nona Hungate often entertained a group of married ladies who had a quilt club. The big lounge made a perfect place to set up the big quilting frames when the male students were not using it. The ladies held many quilting bees there. Nona was a mother and a friend to some 1,040 to 1,521 young men during her 13 years at Sutton Hall.

In 1971, Sutton Hall housed male military veterans, many of whom had recently returned from the war in Vietnam. The building was extensively remodeled into offices in 1978. The entire interior was dismantled in 1996 leaving no trace of the building’s original function as a dormitory. Another interior remodel took place in 2001. Sutton Hall now serves as office space. The outside of the building looks very much like it did back in 1923, with only minor changes.

View of building front entrance through trees
Courtesy of EWU Special Collections (EWU_997_0278_080
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The building was dedicated to William J. Sutton, who twice in his career saved the Cheney Normal School from closure. He served as principal of the college from 1892-1897. In those days a principal not only oversaw the school administration but was also the head teacher.

Portrait of William J. Sutton

Sutton was born in Michigan in 1865, and graduated from the Fenton, Michigan Normal School in 1886. The next year he moved to Washington. He was known as a charismatic man, a persuasive speaker, as well as an excellent instructor. He was soon elected principal of the Cheney Public School. Sutton was chosen as Vice Principal of the newly established Cheney State Normal School in 1890, and two years later he was elected Principal.

After the first Normal School burned down, Sutton was able to prevent the Governor’s efforts to close the school. By the time he resigned from the Normal School in February 1897, the institution had a new building, funded by an appropriation from the legislature. Soon after resigning, Sutton married Nellie G. Hutchinson, who had been principal of the Cheney Normal Training School, and he turned his focus on farming and breeding horses. He also served as president of the Security National Bank of Cheney.

Portrait of Sutton in 1916
Bank President, 1916

Sutton returned to the political arena when he was elected State Senator in 1912, shortly after the Cheney State Normal School building had once again burned. In a singular effort against the odds, Senator Sutton pushed through passage of a $300,000 appropriation, despite Governor Ernest Lister’s veto. That money built the Administration Building, later christened Showalter Hall, which is still the most prominent building on campus. Sutton went on to serve a total of four terms in the Washington State Senate, during which time he chaired several educational commissions. He was also instrumental in saving the State College (WSU) in Pullman from being reduced to the status of a trade school.

He retired from politics in 1929 and oversaw the farming operations on his land near Cheney, as well as staying involved in local civic improvement projects until his death in December 1940.

Sutton Hall | Spokane Historical

Sutton Hall is named after William J. Sutton who served as the president of the Cheney State Normal School from 1892 to …..

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