Had it not been for the motivation and commitment of a young Japanese immigrant named Kin Takahashi, Bartlett Hall may never have come to fruition.
Bartlett Hall is believed to have been one of the first Y.M.C.A. buildings on an American College Campus, and it is the only building on Maryville College’s campus that was built by students. Takahashi, a senior student at MC in 1895, wanted to give the Y.M.C.A. organization at MC a home of its own.
Bartlett Hall was to house the first athletic facilities on the Maryville Campus: a gymnasium on the second floor and a running track and dorm space on the third floor, as well as a bowling alley, swimming pool, game room, bath room, locker space and a toilet room in the basement. On the first floor was a meeting hall for religious services large enough to comfortably seat over 500 students, a parlor and a reading room. The pool was not built in the basement but was instead built in a separate enclosure that sat where the Lambert Wing and parking lot of Bartlett Hall now exists.
Takahashi, a native of Yamaguchi, Japan, came to the United States to receive an American education and learn English when he was 14. He was supported by his Shintoist father and Buddhist mother but they disowned him after he converted to Christianity during his second year at a San Francisco preparatory school. Takahashi had been told of a school in Tennessee that would provide financial aid for young men who were in need. Takahashi enrolled in the preparatory department of MC and spent the next seven years working on his Bachelor of Arts degree. He became well known for his leadership skills and started the first football team at MC.
Takahashi procured permission from the faulty to hold a mass meeting of students to contemplate plans and means of raising money to erect a Y.M.C.A. building and gymnasium. As a result, an association was formed and they began to solicit funds for the building. The total amount that would be needed for the building was $10,000. Subscriptions were sold to faculty and students, and Takahashi solicited the rest of the funds needed to build Bartlett Hall. While he found most people he encountered to be open to the idea and obtained donations from them, some who he spoke with treated him as though he were a second-class citizen or beggar.
“Since I came here, some of the so-called Christians treat me like a tramp,” Takahashi wrote in a report. “I actually shed a tear on American soil for the first time.”
Takahashi and the rest of the students dug clay from the ground upon which Bartlett Hall would be erected and pressed 300,000 bricks which were used in the building. Each brick was sold via subscription at a price of ten cents each. Students and faculty purchased $1,200 brick subscriptions and the students invested “sweat equity” as well. Takahashi and the rest of the students did all the work that did not require licensed workers. Local farmers donated wood to fire the kiln and horses and wagons to haul the wood. This was truly a building built for students by students.
“I think that Bartlett Hall should really be called Kin Takahashi Hall even though Peter Bartlett was president of the college,” Dr. Vandy Kemp, MC Vice-president and Dean of Students said. “Kin Takahashi became such a great historical character in the life of the college — this is his building.”
In lieu of having the building named after him, Kin Takahashi Week began in 1995 during a class of 1960 reunion. 1960 Maryville College graduate Dan Greaser founded and coordinated KTW and dedicated the name and the purpose of the week in acknowledgement to Takahashi‘s selflessness and contributions to the college. Each year, during the second week of June, alumni of varying ages return to MC to help in any way they can — sorting the archives, cleaning and repainting buildings, building or repairing fences, landscaping, etc. They give of their time and themselves in the same manner that Kin Takahashi did. The senior class of 2000 also paid homage to Takahashi by providing funds to remodel Bartlett Hall and included a room designated to honor him.
Bartlett Hall today is a hub of student activity that would not have been possible without the contributions of Kin Takahashi.
Dean Kemp expresses with fondness just how important it is for students to remember its rich history: “I think this building is important on this campus because of its history of being built by students. No other buildings were built by students and the fact that Kin Takahashi gathered up the men of the time and they raised the funds and made the bricks is remarkable. So it’s fitting that it’s now the student gathering place.”