Initially known simply as Residence Hall #4, Stimson Hall represented a stark departure from the architectural design of the first buildings from the college’s original 1938 master plan conceived by the firm of Moore and Hutchins. Its Bauhaus-esque architecture emphasized utilitarianism, natural materials, and an unadorned exterior. These aspects harmonized with the surrounding natural landscape, creating a “dorm in the woods” aesthetic. This dorm’s wooded location and its modernist aesthetic set the hall off from the first residence halls constructed, like Mary Fisher and Heubeck Halls. Redwood panels from California, for example, contrasted with the rusticated stone of the older buildings. Peter Christie, a Towson architect and a student of Bauhaus founder Walter Gropius (see Architects), designed Stimson. Christie’s design incorporated a modernist aesthetic that was similar to that of the College Center (now Dorsey Center), designed by Gropius’s collaborator Pietro Belluschi (see Architects).
Stimson was designed to house 256 students in five residence halls. The original plans included faculty apartments, a dining hall, kitchen, lounges, common rooms, reception areas, and lobbies. The five residence halls were constructed with concrete columns, stone foundations, redwood vertical siding, rubble stone accent walls, and low-pitched roofs. The residence halls were connected by outdoor walkways with a roof made of wooden slats and corrugated plastic. These outdoor walkways surrounded a naturally landscaped courtyard, furthering the “dorm in the woods” concept.
Stimson Hall consisted of five houses—Wagner, Lewis, Connor, Probst, and Winslow— surrounding a shared courtyard. Each building had a similar layout. They were all meant to hold at least 64 students each in single and double dorm rooms, with painted cinder block walls in each. Each house had bathrooms on every floor and a common room. Every dorm (except for Lewis) had an apartment that could be accessed through the interior and exterior of the building. These apartments typically contained a kitchen, living space, bathroom, and single bedroom.
Stimson shares architectural similarities with other buildings on campus, most notably in the use of locally-quarried Butler rubble stone on parts of its exterior walls. Its architectural spirit, however, is most closely shared with the College Center (now Dorsey Center), built at the same time and designed by Pietro Belluschi, another Modernist architect associated with Walter Gropius, who consulted on the design of Stimson.
The College Center and Stimson both emphasize the casual, social parts of college life through their welcoming, informal architectural styles. Stimson and the College Center focus on horizontal architectural features and both have low-pitched roofs. Like the College Center, Stimson’s five residence halls surround a landscaped courtyard. Wooden boards are featured in the College Center as an awning and in Stimson as a vertical siding.
The wooden boards were also used to construct the roofs of the outdoor walkways that connected the Stimson houses. Like the College Center, Stimson was constructed from natural materials and harmonized with the surrounding landscape.