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The Getty Foundation Awards Landmarks, Major Grant for Historic College Study, Work Proceeds

January 2, 2006

On June 22, the Getty Foundation, based in Los Angeles, approved a matching grant to the Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation in the amount of $185,000 for the preparation of conservation plans for Allegheny College, Slippery Rock University, Geneva College, and Grove City College, with work to be completed by the end of 2006. The grant requires a $10,000 match from each college, and Landmarks is working with each college to discuss how the match can best be met.

“The approach we used in applying for this grant was unique,” said Landmarks President Arthur Ziegler, “and we look forward to working with the four colleges to study their historic buildings and landscapes, and develop conservation and stewardship plans incorporating these historic assets.”

Several years ago, The Getty initiated the Campus Grants Program for colleges and universities. The University of Pittsburgh was a recipient of one of these grants. Landmarks realized that there were a number of small colleges in Western Pennsylvania that have historic campuses with marvelous 19th- and early 20th-century buildings but which might lack the capacity to apply for grants under the program individually. Therefore, we approached several Western Pennsylvania colleges to see if they would like Landmarks to apply for such a grant on their behalf. Ultimately we were able to submit a proposal on behalf of Allegheny College, Slippery Rock University, Geneva College, and Grove City College. In order to meet the proposal deadline, Tom Keffer, superintendent of property maintenance for Landmarks, visited the four colleges in two days, driving 261 miles and taking 360 photographs.

Associate Director Joan Weinstein and Program Officer Antoine Wilmering at the Getty Foundation worked with us to develop our proposal. Joan was once a member of the faculty of the University of Pittsburgh Fine Arts Department. We thank both of them for their willingness to talk with us and for permitting us to use a novel approach. Here, architectural historian Walter Kidney introduces the colleges.

Allegheny College

Sited in Meadville, 80 miles from Pittsburgh, this is the northernmost campus in our study, and the oldest. It was founded in 1815, and its 14 historic structures date from over 120 years. Bentley Hall is a curious Federal-style building of 1820, with later additions in three phases. Charles Morse Stotz, in The Early Architecture of Western Pennsylvania, treated Bentley Hall as the most significant educational structure in the area before 1860. Of the later buildings, those that stand out are those by two architectural offices, Charles W. Bolton & Sons (Philadelphia) and M. H. Church (Chicago). The Bolton office produced Reis Hall, a darkly-handsome Classical work in terra cotta to house the library; the Ford Memorial Chapel; and Alden Hall. The Church office produced a vigorous design for the Montgomery Gymnasium and the Newton Observatory, walled with stone so rugged as to suggest a mausoleum for the stars. We will study these and the other buildings, and the 20-acre historic campus area where they stand.

Slippery Rock University

When this institution began in 1892, it was the Slippery Rock Normal School; it became part of the State educational system in 1926. Our study includes three buildings from the Normal School days, notably the Richardsonesque Old Main of 1892; all were by a littleknown architect, Sidney Foulk. Five buildings from the 1920s and ’30s, by the W. G. Eckles Co., will follow, as will an unexpected work of Modernism, the Miller Auditorium of 1955; the President’s House of 1939, architect unknown; and the Hickory Schoolhouse, a wooden one-roomer of 1860 brought to the campus in 1988. The campus has no historic landscape as such, but we will make suggestions as regard planting.

Geneva College

This is our second-oldest college, founded in Northwood, Ohio in 1848 but located in Beaver Falls since 1879. We will study six buildings on a six-acre campus, as well as the old, now-deserted college railroad station. The oldest and most notable building is the Old Main of 1881, mid-Victorian Gothic. A little unexpected is a mansard-roofed wooden house, “Ferncliffe,” also built in 1881. The name of the New Castle architect William George Eckles appears three times in this modest building group: in the Johnstown Gymnasium, the McCartney Library, and McKee Hall, a women’s dormitory. Again, a campus study is part of the project, in this case involving a proposed highway realignment.

Grove City College

This is the newest college, founded in the late 1920s and established on a unified campus planned by Olmsted Brothers. Six of the eight buildings under study, dating from 1931 to 1941, are by William G. Eckles. The style is Gothic of one variety or another, usually of red brick with limestone trim. Two buildings predate the College: Cunningham Hall, built in 1845 as a private home, and Carnegie Hall, a music hall given to Grove City by Andrew Carnegie in 1900. The Olmsted campus is 20 acres in area, and we will study it with an eye toward furtherance of the original design principles.

Pittsburgh History & Landmarks Foundation

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Pittsburgh, PA 15219

Phone: 412-471-5808  |  Fax: 412-471-1633