HISTORICAL POSTCARDS OF SPRINGFIELD, MISSOURI
Clara Thompson Hall,Drury College (view 5 of 5)
Clara Thompson Hall was completed in 1926. A memorial plaque on the building states that it was “erected to the memory of Clara Louise Wallace Thompson by her foster parents Washington Irving Wallace and Louise Groesbeck Wallace.” Clara Wallace, a promising pianist, came from Lebanon, Missouri in 1888 to attend Drury Conservatory. Mr. Wallace was one of the original members of the Drury Board of Trustees. Clara later married Edgar Thompson from Marshfield.
In 1923 Drury announced plans to build three new buildings—a library (later known as Harwood Library), a women’s dormitory and a building built to house the Conservatory of Music. The Wallace’s provided $160,000 towards the construction of the dormitory and the music building, and the buildings were named Wallace Hall and Clara Thompson Hall. A dedication service in June 1926 for the three new building was opened with “the Glee Club singing Drury’s new hymn, “Christo et Humanitati” [Clippinger].
Drury’s 1926 Commencement was the first event held in the new music building. According to Frank W. Clippinger in The Drury Story, Clara Thompson Hall of Music provided the Music Department at Drury with “an auditorium seating 600, an adequate stage, sixteen allegedly sound-proof practice rooms, and more studios than there were teachers.” It was said to be the first venue in Springfield suitable for concerts.
The Springfield Orchestral Society (later known as the Springfield Symphony Orchestra) performed its first concert in Clara Thompson Hall on February 26, 1935. Drury College served as the symphony’s home for many years.
The building continues to house the Music Department providing a “classical performance space” and is the site of concerts, plays, lectures, and convocations.
As part of the Midtown Historic District, Clara Thompson Hall is on the National Register of Historic Places. The inventory for that nomination describes the building as follows:
“Clara Thompson Hall of Music, three story collegiate Gothic building constructed in 1925. The six bay building was constructed in a modified T-plan and has a concrete foundation and multicolored brick exterior. The building has a flat roof and stone quoins. The main entrances have original frame and glass double doors set within a Tudor arched vestibule. On the central bay the windows of the second and third stories have single light Tudor arched transoms. At the roofline is a stepped parapet and in the gable field of the main façade is a concrete panel inscribed “Christo et Humanitati“ with a lamp book design similar to the old library building. On the north and south are two story, two bay buildings designed to mimic the original building. These were built in 1979.”
The two “bay buildings” are known as O’Bannon Music Center and Lydy Art Center. Together with Clara Thompson Hall, they comprise the Mabee Performing Arts Center at Drury University.