Walker Hall Naming

Have you ever noticed there is no family name inscribed on the exterior of Walker Hall?  Then how did the building become Walker Hall?”

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Walker Hall photograph after 1907

Joseph S. Walker was the second President of the Worcester Academy Board of Trustees serving from 1873 until 1906.  Unlike his predecessor Isaac Davis, a Brown graduate and local attorney, Walker was not well educated.  He had dropped out of school at a young age and gained success in the rough world of business first locally in the manufacture of shoes, then nationally in the leather trade.  To augment his business success, he ran for public office and eventually was elected to Congress where he championed high tariffs, which protected the profits of his companies.

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Joseph S. Walker, President of the Worcester Academy Trustees 1873 to 1906

By the time he joined the Worcester Academy Trustees he was very wealthy, but his rough manner put off most people.  “Young man, if you wish to make a man hate you, treat him kindly” was the advice that he gave to Abercrombie, when he was starting out as principal.   While Walker was caustic to most, he was intensely loyal a small minority who stood up to him through their strong beliefs and courage.  This included Abercrombie, who was challenged in dealing with the gruff businessman.  Prior to Abercrombie’s arrival in 1882, Walker had been the chief benefactor of the Academy, but because of Abercrombie’s tremendous ideals and energy, Walker’s support grew to a much greater level.

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Daniel W. Abercrombie, Principal of Worcester Academy 1882 to 1918

In 1889, the Academy was about to embark on a grand expansion with the construction of its first major classroom building.  Because Walker made the first major pledge to the building, he was the obvious choice to have his name on the building.  Thinking that Walker might want the recognition, Dr. Abercrombie discretely inquired about a name for the hall. “What will it be used for?” was the brusque reply.  Dr. A answered that it was to be a school building, “Then call it that.”   Thus, his name is not on the building.  Instead, ‘Worcester Academy’ is inscribed on the exterior, front entrance, which faces Providence Street.

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Drawing of Walker Hall circa 1890

Two years later, with the completion of Dexter and Adams halls, the old Civil War hospital was converted from a classroom building into a dormitory and named for Isaac Davis.  It was then that the new school building became known as Walker Hall.

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Bust of Joseph S. Walker by Randolph Rogers currently at the Worcester Academy Alumni House