Hartwell Hall: In Honor of Ernest Hartwell

By Aladiana Tosado

1950 aerial view of State Teachers College, what we now know as Hartwell Hall.

What we now know as SUNY Brockport developed from the Brockport State Normal School, which was founded in 1866. In the 1940s, after ups and downs, the school secured state and federal funding to remain open, largely through the efforts of principal Ernest Hartwell.

After a few years of construction, the new building of the State Teachers College was opened June of 1941. The school went from a three-year normal school to a four-year college that awarded degrees. The new building accounted for the entire school including an auditorium, library, gymnasium, swimming pool, office rooms, classrooms, and more. In the following years World War II, an increase in college enrollment led to the addition of buildings and the expansion of the college.

Drone shot of campus
A picture take from an article posted January 2021 found in The Port. This is a modern picture of Hartwell Hall and the surrounding SUNY Brockport campus buildings.

Unlike other states, New York lacked a system of higher education. Hartwell was among those leaders in the 1940s who successfully lobbied legislature to give college status to upstate normal schools. By the time the governor had passed a bill for this to occur, Hartwell had already opened the Teachers College. Some called this the Hartwell Revolution. While he was only president of this new school until 1944, his work was greatly respected. Upon retiring students noted his persistent effort and interest in their education. Multiple people reported having some of the best, enjoyable years being at the school during his tenure.

Ernest Hartwell, last president of Normal School and first president of Teachers College, 1936-1944.

Upon his passing, Hartwell Hall was named in his honor. Out of respect for the work he did and the influence he had on many, his name lives on. In addition, the Ernest C. Hartwell Memorial Award was created. Each year this award is given out to seniors at SUNY Brockport enrolled in elementary or secondary education. Hartwell Hall remains as a major academic building on campus, a reminder of Hartwell’s efforts.


Mary Jo Giglioth, W. Bruce Leslie, and Kenneth P. O’Brien, State University of New York at Brockport (South Carolina: Arcadia Publishing, 2006)

Emily Morry, “Brockport’s red brick Hartwell Hall has history,” Democrat and Chronicle, March 3, 2016

Anthony Arnone, “SUNY Brockport Introducing Three New Academic Programs,” The Port, January 22, 2021

Ernest C. Hartwell Memorial Award, Brockport Scholarships, SUNY Brockport

Roger Broeker, “Building Traditional College Life: Brockport from 1945 to 1955″

SUNY Digital Repository, 1940 Saga Yearbook. 79-88

Peg Hare Browne, “Memoirs: Class of 1944,” January 1944

SUNY Brockport, “History of the College at Brockport”

1 comment

  1. I enjoyed your piece for Prof. Kramer. I had a good friend, now sadly deceased, who was in the Campus School when they were constructing Hartwell Hall in 1940. They tore down sections so the students had to walk a plank between old and new sections!!! Can you imagine that today?

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