Charles Martin Hall was born December 6, 1863 in Thompson, Ohio. He was son of Rev. Heman Bassett Hall (1823-1910, A.B. 1847, B.D. 1850, A.M. 1866) and Sophronia H. Brooks Hall (1827-1885, Class of 1850, Lit. Course).
In 1873 the Hall family moved to Oberlin, Ohio, where Charles Martin Hall supplemented his education by one year in the Oberlin Academy including lessons in the Conservatory of Music. He enrolled in Oberlin College in 1880, and graduated with a bachelor of arts degree in 1885. He was a member of the Oberlin College Board of Trustees from 1905 to his death in 1914.
Hall was influenced by his college chemistry professor, Frank Fanning Jewett (1844-1926). Jewett is popularly credited with turning Hall's attention to aluminum through a classroom challenge. However, this story appears to contain more myth than fact.
After graduation Hall continued the work in his Oberlin woodshed laboratory with encouragement from his older sister Julia Brainerd Hall (1859-1926). On February 23, 1886, Hall successfully electrolyzed alumina in a mixture of cryolite and aluminum fluoride, producing several small globules of aluminum metal. On July 9, 1886, he filed a patent for "The Process of Reducing Aluminum by Electrolysis."
Hall was a great benifactor of Oberlin, and he was honored by having a statue cast in aluminum which was on display in the chemistry building Severence Hall. Aluminum being very light, his statue was often stolen and placed in compromising situations (like in an outhouse on Peters steps). So the statue was glued to a large granite block and sits more permanently on the second floor of Oberlin's new science center, where students continue to decorate Hall with appropriate trappings on holidays.
An asphalt walkway extends along the south bank of Plum Creek, between the front yard of the Shurtleff House and Wright Park. I was out with my camera one overcast day in the fall of 1958 to take pictures of the areas of the campus that I almost never went to and practiced with my camera. This was one of the pictures I took. The plaque mounted on a rock reads, “Johnston Walk; In honor of Adelia A. Field Johnston whose vision made possible this community parkway.”
Adelia Antoinette Field Johnston was a leader of the Oberlin Village Improvement Society, the organization that cleaned up Plum Creek and created this walkway.
The Heritage inventory says: "Throughout most of the 19th century, Plum Creek had been used as a dump by many Oberlin residents and businesses. In 1903, the Oberlin Village Improvement Society (OVIS) was founded in accordance with the principles of the City Beautiful movement, the civic improvement fervor that swept the nation following the 1893 Chicago World's Fair. Giles Waldo Shurtleff served as the first president of the OVIS."
The walkway is very secluded by the woods along Plum Creek.
Soldiers' Monument was built in 1870 at a cost of $5,000. The original design of Professor Charles H. Churchill, called for a Gothic tower crowned by a small astronomical observatory. College trustees scaled it down to a similar but less ambitious structure with marble commemorative tablets embedded at the base of a sandstone spire at the southeast corner of Professor and West College streets. On it were inscribed the names of ninety-six Oberlin men who fell in the War of the Rebellion. Of this number fifty-five had been enrolled as students in some department of Oberlin College.
By the early 1930s the memorial looked like a crumbling medieval ruin and was nicknamed "the sunken church." At the Memorial Day observance of 1934, pacifist college students interrupted the village ceremony by laying anti-war placards ("Schools, Not-Battleships," "Transfer All War Funds to Aid of Needy Students") against the monument (This sounds like Oberlin). A year later it was dismantled and the marble tablets placed in storage.
These tablets were later incorporated into the 1943 Veteran's Memorial located overlooking Plum Creek in the Wright park on West Vine Street. William Hoskins Brown designed a simple terraced wall of old brick to hold tablets, including the originals, honoring the Oberlin casualties of all wars since 1861.
Over the next three decades the wall began to tilt under the pressure from the embankment behind it. Corrective repairs were attempted after the Korean War. I took this photo on a walk down to Plum Creek.
In 1979, a city council decision to tear it down mobilized the American Legion post to save the monument. The restoration project, headed by Carl Breuning, was complete in time for the town’s sesquicentennial celebration of 1983.
The monument remembers 96 casualties (town and college) of the Civil War, 11 townsmen killed in World War I, 16 in World War II, and 2 each in Korea and Vietnam.
For a list of the names and inscriptions, see the website
I wandered around with my camera and walked along the back yards of the places near Grey Gables. I also periodically took photos from my room
The Episcopal congregation in Oberlin is about 150 years old, and worships in a eccleisiologically traditional edifice that dates from the late 19th century. It seems in keeping with the place.
Oberlin has been able to maintain a high standard of quality in its public buildings. Its Post Office is a well-proportioned, dignified addition to the town.