After living in Italy for 4 years, I have become utterly fascinated with history and very partial to any structure or artwork that can tell me a great story. It wasn’t surprising to me that I would fall in love with the original building of the university; what my tour guide described as “The home of Mr. and Mrs. Hofstra,” Hofstra Hall. As I looked at the quaint, white, Quaker-like building under renovation, I knew I wanted to dig deeper.
I learned William Hofstra was born in Holland, Michigan and had been previously divorced before he married his second wife around 1895. Kate Mason Williams was a widow and 7 years older than Will. After they were married they moved to New York. They were a wealthy and generous family that sustained their reputation alongside the Vanderbilts, the Astors and other noteworthy families of the time.
Hempstead, Long Island was a great transportation hub in the early 1900s, which made it easily accessible to New York City and the ideal location to build a spacious estate to house Mr. Hofstra’s collection of luxury cars and Mrs. Hofstra’s horses, cats, dogs, and parrot. Hofstra Hall, referred to by the family as “The Netherlands”, was built for Mr. and Mrs. Hofstra and completed in 1904.
In 1935, two years after Kate’s death, the home became New York University’s Nassau College- Hofstra Memorial. There were 159 day students and 621 evening students, who were for the most part Long Island locals. The college progressively grew and became Hofstra University on March 1, 1963. Today, the building is home to administrative offices including Development/Alumni Affairs, General Counsel and University Relations.
The aesthetics of the building as well as the layout and structure are almost identical to its original blueprint. Some changes and repairs have been made through the years. However, the largest renovation started recently in April 2014. The roof has been replaced and construction for a new stoop, new double panned windows, and all-new white vinyl cedar shack siding has already begun. All of the work is taken care of by Hofstra’s very own craftsmen from the Facilities department. Additional measures have been taken to ensure the building is more energy efficient, long lasting, and that the aesthetic appeal holds true to the memory and legacy left by Mr. and Mrs. Hofstra.
The renovations are expected to be completed by the end of July. Stay tuned for photographs of Hofstra Hall’s final makeover!
Photographs and research courtesy of Hofstra University Archives .
-Rosa Mannino, administrative assistant, Student Affairs