Using the Archives Contact Us Search Site Index -
College Archives
Published Resources
Teaching Resources
Records Management
Outside Links
About the Archives
library links
Records of the Vice-President for Operations (Group 14)
[31] Records of the Architectural Review Committee, 1986-1995, 0.5 l.f.

Administrative History

The Architectural Review Committee (ARC) is not an official committee of Oberlin College’s General Faculty, but rather an informal advisory committee established by the 12th president. President S. Frederick Starr created an Architect Selection Committee in the fall of 1985 to assist in the planning for the North Campus dining & social facility (Stevenson Hall). In an August 19, 1986 memorandum to committee members, Starr requested that the group “continue to function informally as an architectural advisory group.” He listed the following functions: “to review the programs for all major buildings on campus, to offer advice and comment regarding proposed architects, and to consult with architects regarding the basic conception of major building projects at Oberlin.” He planned for the group, renamed the Architectural Review Committee, to work informally.

Starr’s initial appointees include Paul Arnold ’40, emeritus professor of art; Geoffrey Blodgett ’53, professor of history; William Chiego, director of the Allen Memorial Art Museum; Michael Getter, director of the Physical Plant; Herbert W. Kaatz ’58, trustee; Dayton Livingston, vice-president for business and finance; Joseph P. Metro, associate vice-president for operations; Eric Nord, trustee; and John Pearson, professor of art. Though a member himself, Starr seldom attended the committee meetings after 1989. President Nancy S. Dye continued the work of this group. Donna M. Raynsford, the new vice-president for operations, replaced Starr as chair of the ARC in 1989. Because the ARC is an unofficial committee, the Student Appointments Committee was unable to appoint students to it. In its first few years, some students sat on the committee to provide input, but without the right to vote. Students no longer serve on the ARC.

The ARC provides recommendations for almost any project that affects the aesthetics of Oberlin’s built environment, including building renovations, paint colors, murals, memorial plaques, landscaping, windows, signage, kiosks, bulletin boards, benches, steps and entrances, parking lots, and student art projects. The committee works closely with the Oberlin College President, Board of Trustees, and the Facilities Planning & Construction Department of the Office of the Vice-President for Operations. The ARC has also been involved with projects in the town of Oberlin, most notably the design of Kendal at Oberlin, a retirement community.

Scope and Content

The Architectural Review Committee records consist of seven files arranged chronologically. One file folder labeled “ARC History” contains items of special interest and dating from before 1989, such as copies of appointment letters to committee members. Other folders contain meeting documents (proposals, confirmation notices, minutes), correspondence, memoranda, cost estimates, budgets, invoices for food or equipment, and drawings. ARC activities documented include reviewing bids, estimates, and architects’ proposals; approving plans and designs; endorsing further study; and making recommendations to the college administration. These records also reflect the ARC’s interest in the small aesthetic details of Oberlin, from the awnings to be installed at the Oberlin Inn to the Warner Gymnasium window trim color.

The ARC’s projects and considerations include the following:

1989: Harkness Bowl restoration, Kettering addition and parking lot, Bibbins Hall artwork, North Campus dining facility (including photo murals), Oberlin Inn renovation, K’ung Memorial, Herb Garden, campus sidewalk modifications, renovations of the South Hall dining facility, Oberlin Inn awnings, Kettering Neuroscience addition, Wilder Porch landscaping, Baldwin and Talcott landscaping, Oberlin Inn shade beds, Campus Landscaping Master Plan (proposed by Edward Thompson)

1990: Finney Chapel rose window project, Finney Chapel patio restoration, Finney Chapel balcony supports, Kettering garden, Conservatory of Music bench, Mudd Center roof dish antenna, Bosworth Portico/ Clyde Holbrook Memorial, Campus Landscaping Master Plan, Allen Memorial Art Museum landscaping, Heisman Field House, and Stevenson Hall

1991: signage and memorial plaques for Stevenson Hall, design consultation for Kendal at Oberlin project, Fairchild Chapel, Finney Chapel rose window, Oberlin Inn signage

1992: Oberlin Inn Club Room renovation, site selection for flower plantings, Wright Physics renovation

1993: selection of potential architectural engineers for renovation of portions of the Carnegie Building, Peters Hall, Rice, and King (soliciting proposals, interviewing firms, considering presentations, and final recommendation); Hall Auditorium interior color changes and ramp modification to entry steps, replacement of concrete steps at south entrance to Rice Hall, Peter Pindar Pease Memorial, Green Circle plantings, John Frederick Oberlin Monument

1994: John Frederick Oberlin Monument, Kiosk student design competition, review design issues on Peters renovation, Rice steps design, Warner Gymnasium window trim color, Wilder sidewalks, President’s bulletin board (Director of Communications Al Moran and K. Scott Alberts ’95 designed the bulletin board in order to create a forum for students wanting to speak their minds to President Nancy S. Dye).

1995: Kettering breezeway mural, Wilder Hall East Patio concept, Memorial Arch Chinese Plaques, review of student art projects, Tappan Square benches, Rice Hall sidewalk, Ruth Robbins Kiosk, Wright landscaping, Third Federal Savings addition to Inn stores, “Nuts and Bolts” kiosk.

[32] Records of the John Frederick Oberlin Monument, 1991-1995, 0.2 l.f.

Historical Note

Erecting a John Frederick Oberlin Monument on the campus in 1995 involved a confluence of several administrative, financial, and creative forces. In the mid-1980s, alumnus Robert S. Hunt (1917-1990, A.B. 1939; A.M. in History, Harvard University, 1940; J.D., Yale University, 1947) expressed interest in honoring the namesake of the city and the college of Oberlin after visiting Oberlin’s church and home in Alsace, France. This Chicago attorney, emeritus professor of the University of Washington School of Law, and active donor to his alma mater began raising funds for the J.F. Oberlin Monument. When Hunt died, his friends wanted to see the project to completion.

Beginning in 1993, the Architectural Review Committee (ARC) comprised of Oberlin College faculty, staff, and trustees became involved in the project to build a monument to its namesake. Paul B. Arnold ’40, George R. Bent II ’52, Geoffrey Blodgett ’53, Dewey Ganzel, Herbert W. Kaatz ’58, Anne Moore, John Pearson, Donna Raynsford, Robert Scheren, and S. Frederick Starr served on the ARC. This committee works in conjunction with the Facilities Planning & Construction Department, which is administered by the vice-president for operations. In addition to overseeing a number of departments, this division is operationally responsible for Oberlin College campus’ 32 academic support buildings, 19 residence halls, athletic fields, an arboretum, the Oberlin Inn, and a number of lesser buildings on the core campus of 440 acres.

President S. Frederick Starr intended the monument to the school’s namesake, an effort to keep Oberlin from becoming a forgotten figure, to be dedicated at the 20th anniversary meeting of the John Frederick Oberlin Society. This organization, the first gift club in the history of Oberlin College, first met January 18, 1974. It is designed to encourage major gifts, preferably unrestricted, for the college’s current operations. With the J.F. Oberlin Monument project still in its planning stage, the site was dedicated without a monument at the John Frederick Oberlin Society’s meeting of May 6, 1994.

The ARC had several considerations to discuss at its eight meetings about the J.F. Oberlin Monument: cost, design, choice of a site, wording of the inscription, and the form of Oberlin’s name (French, German, or Anglicized). One of the two original components of the memorial structure, a steel profile of Oberlin designed by Professor of Art John Pearson at approximately 9’ x 10’ in dimension, was eliminated due to overall cost. The other component—a burgundy granite, rectangular-shaped monument bearing an adaptation of an illusory design used by Oberlin for counseling and an inscription—was ultimately chosen. Designed by Emeritus Professor of Fine Arts Paul B. Arnold, the monument was built at a cost of about $25,000.

Some controversy surrounded the commission of two employees of Oberlin College as designers of the monument. Oberlin College art and art history professors charged President Starr with impropriety and secrecy, especially since both Pearson and Arnold served on the ARC. Alumni and faculty became involved in still another debate over the form of Oberlin’s name to be inscribed on the monument. Oberlin was born in the Alsace region of France, an area that was claimed by both France and Germany, thus making unclear whether his name should read “Johann Friedrich” (German form), “Jean-Frederic” (French form), or “John Frederick” (Anglicized form). In the end, proponents of “John Frederick Oberlin” prevailed.

After controversy and delays, the J.F. Oberlin Monument was placed at the southeast corner of Wilder Hall with little fanfare in May, 1995. The final design bears the name John Frederick Oberlin (1740-1825) in gold-leaf lettering and an illusory bird/ flower design. Its inscription reads: “Oberlin, pastor of Waldersbach in Alsace, France, for whom Oberlin College was named, used the original of the optical curiosity above for pastoral counseling. His simple message - that people of diverse perspectives can live in friendship with one another - lies at the heart of the aspirations of this college.” It also bears the lines “erected 1994” and “Friends of Robert S. Hunt, ’39.”

Scope and Content

This file, at this writing still in the vice-president for operations’ office, contains full documentation tracing the creation, construction, and several controversies surrounding the placement of a John Frederick Oberlin Monument on the campus of Oberlin College. Included are drawings, memorandum, cost estimates, meeting minutes and confirmation notices, correspondence, articles, and copies of the monument’s inscription. Of interest are letters from Claudette Hunt, widow of Robert S. Hunt, and from the monument’s designer Paul B. Arnold. The progress and decisions made by the Architectural Review Committee are reported in its meetings’ minutes. Articles from the Oberlin Review, the Oberlin College Observer, and even a clipping from the New York Times cover the finalization of plans and ultimately, the monument’s placement near Wilder Hall. Lastly, the researcher will find cursory coverage on the John Frederick Oberlin Society itself, as well as on the disagreements and controversies surrounding the project to erect a monument to Oberlin College’s namesake.

[33] Microfilm Index of Documents: Buildings and Other Construction Projects of Oberlin College, 1982 (revision), 0.2 l.f.

Historical Note

Compiled by Steven Landau ’82 in 1980 (revised 1982), the 102-page “Microfilm Index of Documents for Buildings and Other Construction Projects of Oberlin College” provides intellectual access to the drawings of campus and other College-owned buildings. Landau was an Oberlin College student when he compiled this index for the Department of Buildings and Grounds. A second set of the microfilm and accompanying index is in the possession of the Facilities Planning and Construction Office.

Scope and Content

This comprehensive volume contains an “index of specifications,” a list of “contents,” “construction office field sketches,” and individual entries. In the latter each architectural rendering is numbered and identified by name, and is organized alphabetically by building, accompanied by the name of the architect. Listings for each building include the architectural, structural, mechanical, and electrical drawings, summarized by the total number of pages (drawings) for that structure. Of special note are the 22 site maps (linen plats), totaling 27 pages, on 35 mm microfilm. The aperture cards and microfiche jackets, which document more than 3,300 architectural plans of buildings and other construction projects at Oberlin College, duplicate but also supplement the original materials reported in subgroup V of the records of the vice-president of business and finance (entry 22).

[34] Facilities Planning and Construction Office Files, Special Note, ca. 1886-1995, 350 l.f.

Administrative History

The Facilities Planning and Construction Office, administratively a unit of the Operations Division, is located in the Service Building, 173 W. Lorain St., with the physical plant and human resources offices. The “Microfilm Index of Documents for Buildings and Other Construction Projects of Oberlin College” compiled by Steven Landau ’82 for the Department of Buildings and Grounds provides a record of the holdings of the Facilities Planning and Construction Office up to 1982. Since that date, no additional microfilming of construction project documents has occurred. Consequently, this office remains the primary source for all construction projects—new, or renovations—between the years of 1982 and 1995.

Scope and Content

The Facilities Planning and Construction Office maintains records of all changes to the built environment of Oberlin College, including new construction, renovation, and basic maintenance. Records include both project files and flat files with blueprints.

Presently, the Facilities Planning and Construction Office maintains 125 drawers, or approximately 250 l.f. of project files. While these drawers are labeled, the file units are project rather than building-oriented; as a result, the researcher seeking information on a particular building must be persistent in finding all applicable records.

Blueprints—in mylar, vellum, and xeroxed formats—are stored in almost 100 flat-file cases. Included are reproductions and originals of site maps, field sketches, as-built drawings, shop drawings, and site plans for the Oberlin College buildings and grounds.

This office inherited the “Drawing Files, Miscellaneous (Archives),” 1984-1989, of Grounds Manager Edward Thompson. Most of these landscape architecture-based records are in machine-readable form and need to be read on Computer Assisted Design.


These records are presently restricted. Permission of the Facilities Planning and Construction Office is required. Access to these records is also by appointment only.

Oberlin College Seal -