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Records of College General (Group 0)
[1] Annual Reports, 1834-1994, 18 l.f.

Historical Note

Since the founding of Oberlin College (“Collegiate Institute” before 1850), it was customary for the president to report annually to the board of trustees. Less clear-cut, however, is the report’s publication venue, its relationship to annual financial reports, and its title. Regularity began only after 1878. Until that date, presidents issued their annual report in the College Catalogs (RG 0) or, in the case of James H. Fairchild, in the Oberlin Weekly News. The Oberlin College Archives also holds some manuscript copies of Fairchild’s reports in a collection of his personal papers. During the first 125 years, financial summaries were subsumed under these presidential reports rather than being treated separately. From 1878 to 1957, the president’s and financial annual reports appeared together under the title “Annual Report of the President and the Treasurer of Oberlin College.” After 1957-1958, the treasurer’s reports were no longer credited to the treasurer’s office; instead, they were the creation of the new Office of the Controller. The reporting document was then titled “Annual Reports of the President and the Financial Report of Oberlin College.” The narrative reports prepared since 1970 are of a more uneven character.

Scope and Content

Annual reports of the president and the treasurer/controller contain excellent summary information about the development, proprietorship, and appearance of Oberlin. From the second annual report made by President Asa Mahan in 1835, presidents reported on current facilities and plans for buildings and grounds. When the Oberlin “Collegiate Institute” was in its infancy, Mahan appealed for funds to permit new construction in language that made the institution’s physical accommodations inseparable from fulfillment of its moral, social, and religious missions. Researchers should comb the annual reports of the first forty years to find sections with headings like “State of the Buildings,” “Boarding Hall,” “Purchase of Lots,” “Buildings and Grounds,” and “New Buildings.”

In more recent decades, the architectural historian will find information about Oberlin’s built environment in the President’s Report in the introduction, in a section called “The Plant,” and under Trustee Actions (sometimes appearing in the appendix). The 1959-1960 annual report follows this format. In his introduction, President Robert K. Carr mentions his “newcomer’s reaction to the Oberlin campus and physical plant,” and the administration’s success in developing it with “distinction and personality.” [p.6] The section on “The Plant” outlines new building projects, parking areas, sidewalk repairs, trees threatened by Dutch Elm disease, and essential improvements to academic buildings and dormitories. [p. 27] The Summary of Trustee Actions also has a brief segment called “The Plant,” which discusses the awarding of contracts, authorization of construction, fundraising, and the acquisition of properties from the town of Oberlin during that year. The annual financial report, issued by the treasurer and later by the controller, contains a portion called “Plant Funds.”

[2] Records of the Oberlin Alumni Bulletin, Oberlin Alumni Magazine, and Oberlin Today, 1943-1964, 0.75 l.f.

Historical Note

This tabloid size newspaper, an outgrowth of a special March, 1943, newspaper edition of the Oberlin Alumni Magazine, was sent without charge to every Oberlin College graduate and former student. It appeared quarterly from September, 1943, through the fourth quarter of 1952. (Vol. I, No. 1 to Vol. 10, No. 4. Apparently there were no Nos. 2-4 in Vol. 8.) A new form was adopted for the third and fourth quarters of 1952, the last two issues to carry the name Alumni Bulletin. In November, 1952, the title was changed to Oberlin Today and the newspaper was published eight times per year. The publication reappeared as a quarterly from 1955 until 1964. The Magazine and the Bulletin editions from 1943 through 1952 are reproduced on microfilm.

The Bulletin’s purpose, as stated in the first issue, was “to supply all former Oberlin students regularly with a newsy report of the latest, most important events on the campus, and to discuss all phases of the College’s plans and policy which may be of interest to the alumni body as a whole.”

Scope and Content

The alumni serial publications, the Oberlin Alumni Bulletin and Oberlin Today, 1943-1964, reported ceremonies laying cornerstones, progress on construction, and building dedications. The post-war housing crisis, anticipated as early as December of 1943, induced the construction of several new buildings. President Ernest H. Wilkins editorialized about the “Extensive Building Program Planned” in March of 1944. Sketches and photographs often accompany articles about new dormitories, such as Burton Hall (third quarter, 1946; third quarter, 1947), Fairchild Hall (third quarter, 1948), and Harkness Hall (second quarter, 1948). Other major building projects from this decade include the Field House (fourth quarter, 1947; second quarter, 1948; fourth quarter, 1948; first quarter, 1949) and a new heating plant (fourth quarter, 1948). The old heating plant, built in 1913, was designed by the Albert M. Allen Company of Cleveland. President William E. Stevenson addressed the “building boom” on campus in the second quarter of 1949, and a summary of campus housing conditions appeared in the first quarter of 1951.

Issues from the early 1950s contain photographs, drawings, and articles about the Sophronia Brooks Hall Auditorium designed by Wallace K. Harrison (of architectural firm Harrison & Abromovitz) and dedicated in 1953. Other pieces discuss the development plans set by the board of trustees (February, 1953), “Targets for Tomorrow” on the building program and budget (March, 1953), expansion of the Graduate School of Theology facility (June, 1954), and the Oberlin Inn. Beginning in 1955, single-topic issues dominated the publications. Of note are the Report on 1954 (February, 1955), the Carnegie Library (March, 1955), and the Oberlin Building Program (fourth quarter, 1961). The covers generally feature photographs of buildings and other campus scenes.

Articles relating to Oberlin’s built environment or structures appearing in the Oberlin Alumni Magazine, 1904 to present, are too numerous to list here. The pieces cover a wide range of projects from the construction of Carnegie Library in 1908 to the restoration of the Albert H. Johnson House in 1981 to the effort to save Peters Hall, the oldest building on campus, in the 1990s. An index (paper copy) for the Alumni Magazine exists, and it is maintained on 3" x 5" catalog cards by the Library’s Department of Special Collections. Beginning with academic year 1992-1993, the index is only in electronic form to be found on the Oberlin Network.

[3] Oberlin College Observer, September, 1979-May, 1995, 1 l.f.

Historical Note

As its masthead declares, the Oberlin College Observer is “The Oberlin College Faculty and Staff Newspaper.” Issued 18 times—or every other Thursday—during the academic year, the newspaper is published by the Office of Communications, and indexed by a student assistant. Begun in 1979 and with a new volume commencing each fall term, the serial is in its seventeenth volume in 1995-1996.

Scope and Content

The Oberlin College Observer index provides references for authors and for subjects. In studying the college’s built environment, the researcher will want to search this index for secondary source material. Some significant headings are “Architecture, Oberlin,” “Blodgett, Geoffrey,” and “Buildings.” Twenty-nine stories about Geoffrey Blodgett alone relate to Oberlin’s built environment, reporting on books and speeches by him, comments on various buildings, and his selection for the Bandstand Design Competition Committee. Five articles written by Blodgett discuss the history of Oberlin’s campus plans, the architect Cass Gilbert and President Henry Churchill King, and Finney Chapel. Of special importance is his “The Grand March of Oberlin Campus Plans” (May 11, 1995). Under the heading “Buildings” is a list of 50 stories on maintenance, renovations, openings, expansion, dedications, and sales. In a “see also” reference, the index suggests searching under the individual names of buildings, such as Carnegie and Peters.

[4] Records of Buildings and Dedications, 1834-1993, 1.25 l.f.

Historical Note

This artificial archives group largely consists of printed materials relating to general activities and events of Oberlin College from the period of its founding in 1834 to the present. It was designed in the late 1960s by William E. Bigglestone, Oberlin’s first archivist, to control a variety of college publications and printed matter generated by campus-wide offices. The record group contains more than 20 record series. The Buildings and Dedications series is of interest.

Scope and Content:

The Buildings and Dedications record group is a ready-made vertical file which integrates rudimentary architectural records and more general historical materials relative to Oberlin College structures, past and present. Initially a file created and maintained by the staff of the Oberlin College Office of the Secretary, the Buildings and Dedications series consists of 52 folders organized around 46 Oberlin College buildings or structures. Individual folders contain dedicatory programs, both printed and manuscript material, documenting dedications of new buildings, formal openings of additions, laying of cornerstones, and similar events. In most folders materials also include an array of architectural drawings, such as site plans, floor plans, elevation views, seating plans, electrical and ventilation plans, and rudimentary real estate appraisal drawings. Additionally, information relative to a structure’s social and architectural history is found here. Included are drafts of prepared remarks for dedications and dedication programs; newspaper clippings and articles from magazines and scholarly journals relative to an individual structure; photographs and/or artistic renderings; and limited information about a structure’s architect. The Buildings File developed by the Oberlin College Office of the Secretary, also held at the Oberlin College Archives, is of great value in providing an overview of planning, construction, and dedication of respective campus buildings.

Folders are arranged chronologically by date of dedication.

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