Acquiring Land for the New College

After Harold F. Johnson pledged six million dollars in 1965 to found the new college that would become Hampshire, one of the first tasks was to acquire land on which to build the campus. Chuck Longsworth, who had been special assistant to the President of Amherst College, took on the task of finding a suitable site. Since Hampshire was founded under the auspices of the other Five Colleges, somewhere centrally located among the other institutions seemed desirable. South Amherst fitted that description, and its rural character (at that time) meant that the land would be relatively inexpensive.

In order to ensure that prices would not go up, the purpose of the land acquisition was kept under wraps. A corporation called "The Trustees of Tinker Hill" was formed to hold the land. Tinker Hill, a volcanic cinder cone that forms one of the nearby foothills of the Holyoke Range, was already the site of an Amherst College ski run, which provided a useful "cover". Negotiations were begun with local farmers, who were not all that enthusiastic at first about selling their family farms. Chuck recounted stories of talking to Andy Weneczek during early mornings in his cow barn, trying to convince him to sell. "I thought he was a speculator," Andy later said. Bob Stiles evidently felt the same. It was when Roy Blair (a local businessman and friend of the nascent college, after whom Blair Hall was named), obliquely let out the secret to his friend Bob Stiles that their attitude changed. Andy said, "Well, I never had a chance to get an education. And I figured, a lot of these kids haven't got a chance either...A lot of kids would like to go, but they haven't got the room. So I figured that if I could help some other kids along in it, I'd be glad to do it."

Bob and Andy worked for the new college, rolling up miles of barbed wire from former cow pastures. The apple orchards they tended are still here, at least in part. For many years, rhubarb and asparagus continued to come up in the gardens near Stiles House (Admissions), Wayne Stiles House (HR), and Weneczyk House (the Alumni House). In an interview in 1970, Chuck (by then the first Vice President of Hampshire College) asked Andy how different it was working for the college as opposed to working alone on his farm. "It's quite a difference," Andy said. "Because, so what the hell, you get out to the barn, who are you going to talk to, the cows?" Both Bob and Andy continued to work for the college, Bob delivering mail for the Post Office, and Andy in the Physical Plant, until they died. Although the modern brick buildings of the college now dominate the landscape, the underlying presence of the former family farms remains strong.