The Origins of Pulteney Street
Pulteney Street first appears in the historical record on the 1793 survey maps of the area, when it was still called West Street. For the next few decades of its existence, Pulteney Street was a mere dirt path seperating the residential lots on South Main Street from the larger farm lots further west.
Hobart College first touched Pulteney Street in 1854 when the Board of Trustees purchased the property extending from Geneva and Trinity Halls back to Pulteney.
In his college memoir Salad Days, Bellamy Partridge '99 described Pulteney as a "little-used road" and "a remote... back street which that time was almost barren of houses."
The first commercial development on Pulteney Street occurred in 1871, when Roscoe G. Chase, a nurseryman from Maine, started the R. G. Chase & Co. nursery with his brothers George and Howard. On the west side of Pulteney Street, about where the library is now, they built their packing grounds.
It was at this location that the trees were packed into wooden boxes and loaded onto horse-drawn wagons for transportation to the train station. The boxes could weigh up to 1000lbs each, and the heavy teams caused significant damage to the dirt roads. The packing grounds employed about 30 men, many of whom lived in the nearby homes on Pulteney Street.
The first college structure built near Pulteney Street was the Hobart Observatory. Built in 1869, under the direction of Professor Hamilton Lanphere Smith, it was located in the southwest corner of campus until about 1900.
In Salad Days, Partridge writes, "Ordinarily the back corner of campus on which the observatory was located was as dark at night as an inside vest pocket. The building itself was hidden behind a thick growth of low-growing spruce trees, and even when the lights were on the building was scarcely discernible from the street. However, the path from the west campus gate was sufficiently lighted to enable visitors to follow the boardwalk to the door of the observatory."
In 1880, the Polyonomous was moved "back into the grove" near Pulteney Street, approximately to where Williams Hall is now located, and converted into a gymnasium.
Originally located just north of Geneva Hall on Main Street, the small wooden building was first used by the college as the Academic School in 1829. Between 1829 and 1880, it served as a lecture hall, meeting space, and the college's first chapel.
After five years as an inadequate gymnasium, the Polyonomous was converted into a residence for the college's janitor. In 1900, the building was again repurposed as a refectory or dining hall, called the Commons by the students.
On October 9, 1901, the Polyonomous burned. When the remaining wood was auctioned off, The Hobart Herald mourned the loss, writing, "Mercenary merchants, ready to strike a good bargain, offered their fifty or seventy-five cents and old Polyonomous became the victim of the all-devouring commercialism of our day, and the historic wood, with many a name carved in it, still echoing many a memory of the good old days at Hobart, was carted away to do further service in some obscure and forsaken part of the world."