Heart of the Hill
Their history goes back to the edges of photographic
Faded sepia-tone reveals horsedrawn wagons, workmen
in derbies and overalls dipping into water barrels, piles of sand,
landscape without trees.
At the top of the photo is newly-constructed Richardson
Hall, even before occupation its four columns and dome claiming
its spot as the campus’s architectural anchor. At the bottom
of the photo wooden forms reveal the embryonic shape of what would
become one of the most beloved and identifiable landmarks on Southwestern
The date was April 21, 1910, and the cluster of
workers was building the 77 Steps.
Less than a month later, as the college celebrated
its first quarter of a century, alumni and community friends were
joining students and faculty as they climbed the 77 toward the new
From the beginning these steps claimed their role
as a Winfield and Southwestern College landmark.
Since 1910, every graduating class but one (the
class of 1950) has marched up the 77 steps. They provided the venue
for the grand march of the May Queen and her retinue. Faculty in
full academic regalia process up the steps for convocations in the
fall and spring. As the college facilities expanded from two buildings
in 1910 to its current size, the steps became the link between lower
and upper campus.
Jerry Wallace, Southwestern College archivist from
1999 to 2001, researched the steps in a 2001 document.
“With the loss of other historic campus structures,
these ancient steps serve as a link to the college’s past,”
Wallace wrote. “The steps are part of the romance and lore
of the campus and help to give it its special character.”
In spite of the passing of more than nine decades,
the steps have remained largely unchanged. Nine flights of stairs
with nine landings between. Ornamental concrete side rails. A marble
slab on the third landing with the Jinx embedded in the concrete.
(The Jinx landing dates from 1958, but a representation of the Jinx,
in one form or another, has been found on the Steps for most of
their existence, Wallace discovered.)
of the Hill campaign
During the past 93 years millions of footsteps
have pounded the heart of the hill. Kansas weather has alternately
flash-frozen and heat-blasted the nine flights. And as time
has passed, the 77 Steps have chipped, cracked, and shifted.
Attempts to patch the steps have prolonged but not cured them.
“Are the steps still used?” one
returning alumna asked a few Homecomings ago. “I figured
they couldn’t be, because they are in such disrepair.”
Now Moundbuilders can take part in restoring
this grand campus landmark. A Heart of the Hill campaign has
a goal of $250,000 for renovation of the 77 Steps.
Donors will have a variety of opportunities
to participate in this Annual Fund campaign.
A gift of $2,500, for example, allows the donor
to name a step. The naming can be in honor of the donor, or
of someone that person wants to memorialize (such as a favorite
A gift of $5,000 will allow the donor to name
one of the six landings of the 77, each landing including an
engraved stone with an icon of Southwestern history.
A gift of $25,000, payable over three years,
will lead to naming of the Jinx landing.
Special opportunities are available for classes
with the largest class gift, the highest class participation,
the greatest increase in giving, and the greatest increase in
Everyone who makes a contribution of $500 or
more will receive a piece of the original steps.
For more information on the Heart of the Hill
campaign, contact Paul Bean, vice president for development,
at email@example.com, or 620-229-6286.