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Lenox College

Hopkinton, Iowa




Hopkinton was on my travel itinerary this past October, but since I couldn’t tell Dubuque from Davenport, I missed my opportunity, so must again depend on material from the Iowa Historical Society and the Internet.  My former colleague Ray Brown, as usual, has been before me in collecting materials on Lenox College, and the town of Hopkinton has preserved the campus almost in its entirety.


Lenox College, the oldest Presbyterian College in Iowa, was founded as Bowen Collegiate Institute in 1856, with classes beginning in 1859.  In 1864 it took the name Lenox Collegiate Institute for James Lenox, a benefactor.  By 1864 it was primarily a liberal arts college and took the name Lenox College.  During the Civil War, 92 Lenox students served in the Union Army, with the president, Reverend James McKean, acting as their captain.  McKean and 46 of the students were killed in service.


In 1907 the Presbyterian Magazine noted that Lenox College had a Princeton atmosphere.  Located in a small town, it lacked the distractions students would have encountered in a city.   The moral atmosphere of Hopkinton was set by three churches—two Presbyterian, one Methodist—embraced by almost every citizen.  There were no saloons in Hopkinton.  The article noted that that the first collegiate Y.W.C.A. and the second Y.M.C.A. overall were at Lenox.  In addition, weekly prayer meetings were a common feature among students.  Regular church attendance was required.


The Lenox College Bulletin shows a small student body with ten graduates.  In addition to the liberal arts college, Lenox offered the academy, the school for teachers, the commercial school, the school of music, and the school of expression and physical culture.  In addition to the Y.M.C.A. and Y.W.C.A. chapters shown above, Lenox had two literary societies—the Athenian and the Clayonian.   The oratorical society was so strong that Lenox students were ranked in the top eight among Iowa colleges for 14 straight years.


Prior to World War II, Lenox College became a two-year school.  Closed during the war, it had planned to reopen in the fall of 1946 as a four-year liberal arts college, according to the Omaha World Herald.  These plans did not materialize.

Bricks and Mortar

Old Main was begun in 1856, the same year Bowen Collegiate Institute was founded.  In 1875 the east wing was added.  Clarke Hall, the women’s dormitory, was added in 1890; Doolittle Hall, which housed the library and the literary society rooms, came in 1900.  Finkbonner Gym came in 1916.  All four of these building remain, all are on the National Historical Register, and all four are part of the Delaware County Historical Museum.  Along with the Civil War Memorial, they sit in a block bounded by College Street, College Avenue, Highway 38, and Grove Street.

Old Main today.  The wing on the right is an addition.  The original cupola has been removed. (Rifeldeas,,_Main_Building,_Hopkinton_IA.jpg) CC BY 3.0



        Colors and team name: Crimson


College Football Data Warehouse shows that Lenox College played football from at least 1893 through at least 1916.  In some years the school played primarily a high school schedule.  Among colleges, Lenox played Coe most often.  Iowa State Teachers (Northern Iowa) and Upper Iowa were also frequent opponents.  Leander Clark, Cornell, Ellsworth, Campion, and Monticello also made multiple appearances on the schedule.  In 1898 the Crimson played against a very strong Rush Medical College team and were beaten so badly that Hopkinton fans rushed onto the field and pummeled the Rush players.


Lenox was also one of the college teams defeated by the Nebraska Indian baseball team in 1899.

(Above) 1899 football team (Crimson, Courtesy of Iowa History Museum)

Note: Images are used in accordance with their “terms of use” as I understand those terms.  Recopying or republishing these images may be restricted or forbidden.

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