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Records of the Presidents (Group 2)
[6] Papers of Charles G. Finney, 1817-1875, 5.6 l.f.

Historical Note

Charles G. Finney (1792-1875), a noteworthy evangelist of the Second Great Awakening, stressed that each individual was fully responsible for his or her own salvation. Born in Warren, Connecticut, as a young man Finney taught school and studied law. In 1821, he underwent a religious conversion, leading to his ordination as a Presbyterian minister in 1824. Afterwards he began conducting revivals in many midwestern and eastern states (mostly in western and central New York’s “Burned Over District”). In 1832, Finney became pastor of the Second Free Presbyterian Church in New York City. In 1836, after declaring himself a Congregationalist, Finney led the shift in Protestant theology and practice, beginning what some called “Oberlin Perfectionism.”

In 1835, at the urging of the Tappan brothers, Finney was invited to establish the Theological Department at the Oberlin Collegiate Institute. Finney took up residence in Oberlin, becoming pastor of First Congregational Church, 1835-1872. He also served as Professor of Systematic Theology, 1835-1858; Professor of Pastoral Theology, 1835-1875; and on Oberlin’s Board of Trustees, 1846-1851. In 1851, Finney succeeded Asa Mahan as the president of Oberlin College, though he continued his evangelism. He resigned in August, 1865, and continued to write and publish religious tracts, intellectual commentaries, and criticisms.

Scope and Content

Divided into nine record series, the Finney papers mainly consist of calendared incoming correspondence and business records. References to the Tabernacle Tent (1835-1846), often called the “Big Tent,” are located in the memoirs of Charles G. Finney and in his correspondence from John Keep, Timothy L. Bacon, and others. No institutional records exist documenting Oberlin’s earliest built environment as such. However, Finney’s business records in series 7 do contain items of peripheral real estate/architectural interest regarding Oberlin’s early land possessions. Typical business papers consist of land warrants and other assorted deeds, mortgage payments and cancellations, lease agreements, and land clearing contracts for the period 1837 to 1871. Significant among these records are land deeds, 1839-1843, for the Village of Oberlin; 1853-1854 business correspondence with Sophronia Brooks Hall regarding deeds and transfers of approximately 42 acres of land to the College; and a copy of the 1834 “Bill to Incorporate Oberlin Collegiate Institute.” Also found among Finney’s business papers is a rudimentary plot drawing of a zoned land parcel at Lorain and Professor Sts., n.d.

The Finney papers include the important architectural drawings, on one ca. 1841 linen sheet, of the First Church of Oberlin prepared by Boston architect Richard Bond, which include detailed elevations of the stairs, pulpit, roof and steeple, as well as other section drawings.

[7] Papers of James Harris Fairchild, 1817-1926, 1966, 12.7 l.f.

Historical Note

Educator James Harris Fairchild (1817-1902, A.B. 1838, B.D. 1841) was the third president of Oberlin College, 1866-1889, born in Stockbridge, Massachusetts. After graduating from Oberlin College, he was named professor of languages in 1842, beginning a teaching career that would span 55 years. During the tenure of Oberlin College President Charles G. Finney, Fairchild assumed a great many of the president’s administrative duties, and was elected president of the College after Finney’s 1865 resignation. When Fairchild resigned as professor of theology in 1898, he agreed to teach and write as professor emeritus until 1902; he also offered counsel to Oberlin College. During his 68 year association with Oberlin, Fairchild was a member of the Prudential Committee, 1847-1901, and the board of trustees, 1889-1901. As a local historian, he authored a number of works, including the 1883 book Oberlin: The Colony and the College.

During Fairchild’s 23-year tenure as president of Oberlin, the College’s assets increased to a value of one million dollars, and the faculty grew from 10 to 23 professors. Oberlin’s architectural heritage grew significantly, and Fairchild saw the beginning of Oberlin’s “Stone Age” of architectural design with the erection of the Conservatory of Music’s first Warner Hall, 1884; as well as Peters Hall, 1885; Baldwin Cottage, 1886; and Talcott Hall, 1887. These “thick, chunky, and aggressively solid buildings,” made of rough-textured Ohio sandstone and designed in the Richardsonian Romanesque style, were marked by a vertical thrust evident in their Gothic towers, bays, and tall windows. Fairchild’s name is associated with the chapel in the Graduate School of Theology, designed by Cass Gilbert and erected in 1931.

Scope and Content

The papers of James Harris Fairchild are organized into seven series. They mainly consist of personal and professional records, with a large bulk being the 7.9 l.f. of correspondence in series 1. All but two boxes of this correspondence, arranged chronologically, are described on a per item level in a six-volume indexed calendar series, prepared in 1955-1956; the uncalendared correspondence, primarily personal letters, 1819-1900, is held in series 2.

The architectural records relative to planning, funding, and individual architects, primarily in the form of incoming correspondence, are modest. The records located in series 1 are easily accessed by using the calendar index arranged by correspondent name. Covering the period ca. 1883 to 1889, significant correspondents and subject matter include the following: five letters, 1882-1888, discussing Warner Hall funding with Dr. Lucien C. Warner (d. 1925, A.B. 1865); an 1886 individual letter from Akron architects Weary and Kramer, designers of Peters, Baldwin, and Talcott halls (information is structure-specific); College donor Frederick Norton Finney, discussing a $50,000 gift to Oberlin in 1888; and the Cleveland architectural firm of Coburn and Barnum (which later on designed Tank Hall, erected in 1896), discussing renovations to the Ladies’ Society Hall (Sturges Hall), and the installation of a new organ. Some of the most meaningful correspondence is written by Charles G. Fairchild, the nephew of President Fairchild, who served as Oberlin’s financial agent from 1882 to 1893 to raise funds for College buildings. These five correspondence items, 1882-1885, discuss Oberlin College building needs, Warner Hall building plans, Warner Hall funding with John D. Rockefeller, and the dedication of Spear-Library Laboratory.

[8] Papers of Henry Churchill King, 1897-1934, 56.25 l.f.

Historical Note

Henry Churchill King (1858-1934, A.B. 1879, B.D. 1882), theologian and teacher, was the sixth president of Oberlin College. After receiving his theological degree, he earned an A.M. from Harvard University in 1883, and, subsequently, a D.D. from the University of Berlin in 1894. King worked initially as a tutor in Oberlin’s preparatory school beginning in 1879, then taught mathematics, philosophy, and theology. King served as dean of the College of Arts and Sciences for one year, 1901-1902, and, following the sudden death of President John Henry Barrows in 1902, was elected president of Oberlin College.

King’s 25-years as Oberlin’s president is notable for the substantial and enduring growth in Oberlin’s built environment. Believing a creative link existed between intellectual and physical surroundings, in 1913 King wrote that “[i]t is no small part of the obligation which the college owes to its students to make their environment, as well as their courses, minister to a discriminating aesthetic taste. In its architecture and grounds, as well as in its courses in literature and music and art,” he added, “the College hopes thus to meet the aesthetic needs of its students with increasing satisfaction.” Soon after a 1903 fire destroyed the old chapel on Tappan Square, King sought resources to build a new chapel, but also for other needed structures, including a new Oberlin College library, an art museum, a men’s social center, and an administration building. Over the next decade, King commissioned architect Cass Gilbert and the Olmsted Brothers, Boston landscape architects, to coordinate campus planning and building design; their commissions were advanced over the objections of College Treasurer James R. Severance and other Oberlin-commissioned architects, including Normand Patton and J.L. Silsbee.

According to Geoffrey Blodgett, the collaboration of President King, Gilbert, and the Olmsted Brothers produced a campus plan in a style that was “highly rectilinear...taking off from the square angles of Tappan Square.” The primary axis of this plan ran from the proposed (and eventual) site of Hall Auditorium, across the Square and through Silsbee’s Memorial Arch, to the location of what would be an unrealized Gilbert-designed Bell Tower. The plan called for the clearing of Tappan Square, and eventual demolition of Peters Hall. Significantly, the 1914 bequest of Charles Martin Hall, which represented the basis for the funding of the Sophronia Brooks Hall Auditorium, stipulated the clearing of Tappan Square and a Gilbert design for the structure. However, conflicts regarding both the style and function of the proposed Auditorium went on well into the 1940s; by then, both King and Gilbert were deceased.

Even though not every element of the King-Gilbert “Grand Collaboration” saw fruition, the Gilbert-designed buildings became the dominant architectural motif on Oberlin’s campus during and immediately after King’s presidency. Exceptions were Normand Patton’s Carnegie Library, 1908, and Silsbee’s Men’s Building/Wilder Hall, 1910, buildings that incorporated the austere angles and rough exterior finishes of Oberlin’s “Stone Age” structures. In contrast, Gilbert’s Mediterranean and Renaissance-Classicist structures employed rounded arches and colonnades, warm hues on smooth sandstone trimmed with red, and red terra cotta roof tiles. This style related well to the Ohio sandstone of Warner Gymnasium (1901)--which Gilbert cited as influential--and other tile-roofed buildings such as the Men’s Building and Spear Library-Laboratory, while concurrently establishing a distinctive architectural élan. Elements of Gilbert’s grand motif are consistently reflected in his designs for Finney Memorial Chapel, 1908, built on the site of the Finney House; the Cox Administration Building, 1915; Allen Memorial Art Museum, 1917; Allen Memorial Hospital, 1925; the Athletic Field Grandstand, 1925; and the Graduate School of Theology complex, 1931. Tellingly, every structure built during the King-Gilbert years was still extant and in use by the College in 1995.

Scope and Content

Organized around nine record series, the Henry Churchill King papers document King’s service to Oberlin College as teacher, preacher, administrator, and statesman. A calendar and index for King’s professional correspondence are available.

Architectural researchers will want to consult the Series 1 “Professional Correspondence” files for extensive documentation, 1902-1927, of Oberlin’s architectural history during King’s administration. Items of architectural substance consist mainly of communication exchanges with notable architects, as well as with building fund donors, college officials, and influential trustees and alumni. The most significant individual collection of “architect” records includes three boxes of detailed correspondence with architect Cass Gilbert, 1903-1927, discussing campus planning, individual structures such as the Allen Memorial Art Museum, Allen Memorial Hospital, the Athletic Field and Grandstand, Cox Administration Building, Finney Chapel, and Gilbert’s proposed design for Hall Auditorium and his grand Bell Tower. Also well represented within King’s correspondence are the files of other architects associated with Oberlin. This group includes: two folders of correspondence with Boston landscape architects the Olmsted Brothers, discussing their work with Gilbert and other landscape issues, 1903-1916; a few letters, 1903-1905, from New York architect Arthur B. Jennings (1849-1927, architect of Warner Hall, 1885, and Rice Hall, 1910), which include drawing studies of proposed designs for Finney Chapel and Carnegie Library; two folders of materials from J.L. Silsbee regarding his ideas for campus planning, the construction of the Men’s Building, and an addition for Talcott Hall, 1904-1912; Osborn Engineering Co. of Cleveland, Ohio, 1925, regarding Cass Gilbert’s design for the Athletic Field Grandstand; and limited correspondence from the Chicago firm of Patton and Miller, 1905-1912, mainly discussing Carnegie Library planning and construction.

Series 1 also documents King’s significant correspondence exchanges with influential trustees, alumni, college officials, and donors in architectural matters. Researchers will want to consult the following name files: Dr. Dudley P. Allen, namesake of the art museum and head of the Trustee Committee on Buildings and Grounds, 1902-1914, and his widow Elizabeth Severance Allen Prentiss, 1915-1917, three folders; Andrew Carnegie and his corporation, 1903-1927, which endowed Carnegie Library and Oberlin’s general building fund; Clayton K. Fauver, Oberlin trustee and college counsel, regarding Gilbert’s design plans and general business of the Trustee Committee on Location, Plans, and Design of College Buildings, 1908-1927; eight folders of significant correspondence with Charles Martin Hall, a portion of which discusses campus planning, 1903-1914; donor and former student, Frederick Norton Finney, whose three folders concern Gilbert’s Finney Chapel plans and subsequent renovations and embellishments, 1902-1916; Trustee and Hall estate executor Homer H. Johnson, regarding Gilbert’s Auditorium design and other campus design issues, 1902-1926, five folders; and Trustee Irving W. Metcalf, discussing landscaping and the College’s Building and Endowment funds, 1903-1927. The four folders of correspondence with Presidential Assistant William H. Bohn, although holding more modest architectural information, should also be consulted.

Other interesting correspondence files include: landscape architect and consultant Andrew Auten, 1903-1926, one folder; one letter dated May, 1915 to Mrs. S.E. Barrows (widow of King’s predecessor John Henry Barrows) discussing development of the campus grounds; four folders of correspondence with William C. Cochran regarding building fund activities, donors, and architect costs for the Cox Administration Building and Finney Chapel, 1903 and 1910-1916; four folders of correspondence with Charles Finney Cox and Jacob D. Cox, discussing the Carnegie Library, Cox Administration Building, and Finney Chapel, 1903-1926; and one very descriptive item of correspondence from Helen G. Coburn, 1903, appealing to President King to sponsor the erection of a YMCA building in Oberlin.

One 20" x 25" plat map, ca. 1898, of King’s subdivision of his lot is on file.

[9] Papers of Ernest Hatch Wilkins, 1927-1946, 65.6 l.f.

Biographical Note

Born in Newton, Massachusetts, Ernest Hatch Wilkins (1880-1966) was educated at Amherst College (B.A. 1900, M.A. 1903) and Harvard University (Ph.D. 1910). He quickly established himself as an authority on Dante and Petrarch and as a promoter of international peace. After 15 years at the University of Chicago, 1912-1927, he was named Oberlin’s seventh president. Over the next 20 years, Wilkins steered the College through the depression and one of its greatest periods of development.

Although the architectural legacy of Wilkins’ tenure as president was critically restrained by the financial difficulties of the Great Depression and World War II, the campus did witness the erection of two new athletic facilities, a theological quadrangle, an addition to the Allen Memorial Art Museum, and the new Physics Building during his administration, and conceptual changes in the general campus plan. The most notable structure to be built was the long-planned Graduate School of Theology quadrangle (Bosworth Hall, Fairchild Chapel), designed by Cass Gilbert and dedicated in 1931. This was the architect’s last significant contribution to Oberlin’s built environment. The transformation from Mediterranean-style structures to Neo-Georgian Colonial, occurring during the Wilkins presidency, was a key design element in an unfulfilled campus plan, which sought to build a residential campus for men between W. Lorain St. and the athletic fields. Only one building from this plan, Noah Hall, designed by Charles W. Frank and dedicated in 1932, was completed. Burton Hall, completed in 1946, represented the finale of Neo-Georgian design on Oberlin’s campus. Other notable structures completed during Wilkins administration include Crane Pool, 1931; the Clarence Ward-designed addition to the Allen Memorial Art Museum, 1937; Hales Gymnasium for Women, 1939, designed by Richard Kimball with assistance from Ward and William Hoskins Brown; and the 1942 Wright Physics Building (see also Lloyd William Taylor).

Other building initiatives struggled during this period, most notably the ongoing debate over the design and construction of Hall Auditorium, although Tappan Square was cleared of structures per the Charles Martin Hall bequest in 1927 with the demolition of Spear Library-Laboratory. A plan to construct a new science quadrangle, advocated by William Hoskins Brown and anchored by the Severance Chemical Laboratory on its southeast corner, also faced financing and design obstacles. A new science building had to wait until the post-war period to see realization.

Scope and Content

Comprising 164 boxes and maintained in 11 record series, the papers of Ernest Hatch Wilkins consist largely of professional and academic correspondence, in addition to related administrative subject files. Of specific interest to the architectural researcher is the correspondence with architects, college personnel, and influential trustees (series 1). Also significant within Wilkins’ papers are the records maintained in “Building Files” (series 9), and one box of materials regarding the Charles Martin Hall estate (series 12).

Arranged alphabetically, 85 boxes of correspondence and subject files in series 1 contain materials relative to architects who, whether or not officially contracted with Oberlin, communicated directly with President Wilkins, a significant trustee, or college personnel during the period 1927 to 1946. Three folders of materials for Cass Gilbert, 1910-1937, consisting of assorted correspondence regarding contractors and construction issues for the Graduate School of Theology, and Gilbert’s proposals for Hall Auditorium and the Physics Building, are the most important. Also located here are board of trustee meeting minutes, 1910-1912, a 1911 “Report of the Committee on the Location, Plans, and Construction of College Buildings” relative to Gilbert’s possible appointment as College architect, a 1926 “Resumé of the Relation between the College and Cass Gilbert,” as well as materials relative to Gilbert’s estate that post-date his death in 1934.

Other architects and their representative correspondence files in series 1 include: one folder of materials for Richard Kimball, 1932-1944, regarding the addition to the Allen Memorial Art Museum, Hales Gymnasium, and Hall Auditorium, as well as a textual description of the “Duties of Consulting Architect at Oberlin College,” n.d.; technical and business correspondence from Cincinnati architect Edward J. Schulte, 1940-1945, regarding the construction of the Wright Physics Building he designed; four items from Akron architect Charles W. Frank, 1928-1929, the Noah Hall architect credited with the design for the Men’s Dormitory plan which never saw completion; and preliminary correspondence with the New York firm of Shreve, Lamb & Harmon, discussing possible designs for Oberlin dormitories and Hall Auditorium, 1940-1946.

Some significant correspondents, such as college trustees, alumni/ae, and college personnel, whose functions directly or indirectly affected architectural activities at Oberlin, are also represented by materials in “Correspondence” (series 1). These include College Trustees Clayton K. Fauver, 1927-1942, and Lucien T. Warner (d. 1950, A.B. 1898), 1927-1946, Athletic Director Charles W. Savage, and Art Professors (and Architectural Designers) William Hoskins Brown and Clarence Ward.

Materials documenting subject-specific architectural projects at Oberlin are the “Building Files” (series 9). Comprising 2.9 l.f. of materials, they include an array of document and record types, such as trustee meeting notes and presentations, inter-office correspondence with faculty and Buildings and Grounds personnel, project cost surveys, and planning notes. Some important architect correspondence, not in series 1, is also located here. Moreover, in some instances, documents are accompanied by architectural plans and drawings. The most substantive collection of records within series 9 are those materials regarding Hall Auditorium. These records document the progression and phases of the Hall Auditorium project from ca. 1928 to 1943. They provide a detailed and comprehensive overview of architects consulted (including Cass Gilbert, Richard Kimball, and Eliel Saarinen), trustee and faculty statements and debates (especially that of C.K. Fauver, special representative in Hall Auditorium planning), Buildings and Grounds designer Robert R. Cutler’s 1939 auditorium status report, and various acoustic and mechanical specifications. Of special interest are the 19 black and white photos of auditorium models rendered by architect Eliel Saarinen. These Hall Auditorium records, which are supplemented by the documents in series 12, include various legal documents, technical correspondence from Shreve, Lamb & Harmon, planning and budget notes, and President Wilkins’ copy (#2) of the “Annals of the Auditorium,” dated 1942. Covering the period 1914 to 1944, these materials represent some of the best documentation about the Hall Auditorium project.

Among the other significant subject materials in the “Building Files” (series 9) are: a 1927 blueprint of a “General Plan of the Oberlin Campus,” prepared by Cass Gilbert (this item was removed to the maps and drawings case); preliminary working plans, a topographic study, and correspondence regarding a proposed outdoor theater designed by Shreve, Lamb & Harmon, 1949; a preparatory study, trustee reports, and inter-office correspondence relative to the construction of a new central Heating Plant, 1940-1941; proposals, planning notes, and an architectural rendering, dated December, 1930, for a “Chinese Building” to hold the offices of the Shansi Memorial Association, 1923-1931; materials regarding the acquisition and storage of the “Chinese Temple” from the Chicago and New York World Fairs, 1941-1947; trustee minutes, contracts, and committee reports, in addition to correspondence materials, from architect Edward J. Schulte relative to the Wright Physics Building and other proposed Oberlin science facilities, as well as campus dormitories, 1940-1944; preliminary planning proposals and scattered architectural model photos from the firm of Shreve, Lamb & Harmon for the additions to Hales Gymnasium, Allen Memorial Hospital, Oberlin Inn, and campus dormitories, 1943-1946; and correspondence supplemented by two preliminary perspective drawings, ca. 1938, for Hales Gymnasium by architect Richard Kimball.

[10] Papers of William E. Stevenson, 1926-1961, 46.7 l.f.

Biographical Note

William Edwards Stevenson (1900-1985), Rhodes scholar, lawyer, educator, World War II veteran, diplomat, and Olympic gold medalist, was Oberlin’s eighth president, serving from 1946 to 1959. Educated at Princeton University (A.B. 1922) and at Oxford University, Balliol College (B.A. in jurisprudence, 1925; M.A. 1928), he served as an assistant U.S. Attorney before entering private law practice. During World War II, Stevenson assisted in the coordination of Red Cross operations in England, North Africa, and Italy. He and his wife Eleanor “Bumpy” Stevenson (b. 1902), whom he married in 1926, were awarded Bronze Stars for their service. After leaving Oberlin, Stevenson served as U.S. Ambassador to the Philippines and later directed the Aspen Institute for Humanistic Studies. The dining hall on N. Professor St. (Stevenson Hall), named in his honor and designed by Charles Gwathmey, was dedicated in 1990.

Stevenson’s presidency, the first after World War II, was notable for its development of the College’s physical facilities. Jones Field House, 1949; the Oberlin Inn, 1954; and several new dormitory buildings (including Barrows and Dascomb halls, 1956) were completed during his administration. In addition, the new Conservatory of Music complex, the Kettering Hall of Science, and the King Humanities building were initiated, and College Library expansion plans, which led to the erection of Mudd Learning Center, were begun. Possibly the most significant architectural development of Stevenson’s time at Oberlin, however, was the resolution of the decades-old dispute over the design and construction of Hall Auditorium (designed by Wallace K. Harrison and completed in 1953), and general agreement on architect Douglas Orr’s general campus plan. The post-war/Stevenson years also began an era of architectural individuality on Oberlin’s campus, exemplified by the contrasts of the functional, boxy simplicity of the Oberlin Inn and the flowing, melodramatic lines of Hall Auditorium. Despite the fact that Eldredge Snyder served as consulting architect to the College for much of this period, Oberlin’s architecture was probably no longer chronologically uniform, except in its diversity of form and style.

Scope and Content

The records of Oberlin College President William E. Stevenson, 1926-1961, are divided into five subgroups and numerous record series thereunder. Three of the subgroups hold important files: Subgroup I “Administrative Files of the Office of President,” Subgroup II “Board of Trustees Records,” and Subgroup III “Faculties, College Divisions, Programs, and Administrative Units.” The value of the architectural records is likely to be found in the extensive documentation of Oberlin-commissioned architects and their project activities; debate and planning of building projects by college administrators, faculty and trustees; news clippings and press releases; and scattered graphic architectural materials, including drawings, renderings, photos, and bound project proposals and specifications. Researchers will see that information on some campus structures and the architect is located in record series in several subgroups.

Information regarding the Charles Martin Hall estate (the funding base for the Hall Auditorium project) is in Subgroup 1 “Administrative Files of the Office of President,” Series 8 “Subject Files.” Covering the period 1946 to 1959, two folders of materials hold items relative to the Hall bequest to Oberlin College, including legal documents, notes, and trustee/executor reports. On the Hall provisions, researchers will also want to consult the faculty name files (Treasurer William P. Davis, 1946-1958) of series I in subgroup III.

Trustee meeting minutes, correspondence, and reports on construction costs and project status reports submitted to the Board of Trustees Building Committee are located in series 1 of subgroup II. These five files, 1946-1959, consist of administrative documents and correspondence relative to the Joint Committee of the Faculty and Trustees, and the Special Committee on the Oberlin Building Fund. Included are numerous references and items relative to the Joint Trustee and Faculty Committee approval of the Wallace K. Harrison-designed Hall Auditorium (with Eldredge Snyder as associate architect) and its physical design features, 1948; the installation of a Holtkamp Organ in the auditorium; discussion and approval of Snyder’s plans for the Oberlin Inn; items regarding building additions to Hales Gymnasium and the auditorium, 1957; and planning debates and architect/contractor bid discussions for what became the King Building and the Kettering Hall of Science. The early planning proposals, 1946-1947, for an addition to the Severance Chemical Laboratory prepared by Shreve, Lamb & Harmon are also located here.

The most extensive and comprehensive architectural records within the Stevenson papers are filed in Subgroup III “Faculties, College Divisions, Programs, and Administrative Units (1945-1969).” Faculty meeting minutes documenting faculty planning considerations for a Hall Auditorium addition, and primary planning for the Kettering Science and King Humanities buildings, are in the faculty committee files of Series 1 “Faculties.” Covering the years 1957 to 1959, these items, which incorporate the 1957 consultant report of architect Douglas Orr (see below), are notable for their discussion of campus planning relative to the proposed sites for the King Building. Treasurer William P. Davis’ file, as noted above, contains useful information relating to the financing of construction projects and the College’s purchase of properties in Oberlin.

The largest concentration of architectural records is in Series 4 “Administrative Units (1946-1959)” of subgroup III. Amounting to 1.8 l.f., these documents chronicle the work of architects and building projects at Oberlin, and include voluminous correspondence and general architectural data, meeting notes and clippings, legal agreements, and assorted administrative memoranda between and among College officials and the corresponding architects. A limited number of site and floor plans are also available. Significant among these records are architect/subject files, which contain the following: two folders of miscellaneous items and correspondence regarding Wallace K. Harrison, architect (in collaboration with Snyder) for Hall Auditorium, 1948-1956; one folder of materials for consulting architect Douglas Orr, 1956-1959, including Orr’s landmark February/March, 1957 report, “Oberlin College—Preliminary Survey of Problems I & II,” which helped to resolve the issue of future campus site planning and the location of the King Humanities complex, as well as Orr’s June, 1957, report to the college trustees; and four folders of materials for architect Snyder, 1946-1959, which cover his involvement with a variety of Oberlin building issues for this period, including Hall Auditorium, Fairchild and Harkness dormitories, the proposed Humanities Building (which Snyder suggested be located next to Carnegie Library), the Oberlin Inn, and general campus planning. Included among these records are materials pertaining to landscape architects William Eichstadt and Wayne Laverty, 1948-1950, which feature a general site plan for the Women’s Dormitories, as well as planting plans and correspondence with President Stevenson.

Series 4 contains other general building and construction project files of an administrative character. Record series consist of administrative meeting notes, trustee meeting minutes and reports regarding building projects, architect correspondence and support materials, and maintenance reports for extant structures. Most conspicuous among these records are 12 folders, 1947-1962, relative to the erection and addition to Hall Auditorium. Included is an early project rendering and site plan, ca. 1947, for the auditorium by Snyder (five bound pages), as well as news clippings, dedication materials, and support materials for the proposed addition to the auditorium, 1958-1959. Other notable individual items among these files are: a June, 1947 report by Snyder on “The Building Situation at Oberlin,” held in the “Buildings, 1947-1949” folder; information and legal agreements regarding the World’s Fair “Chinese Temple” purchased, stored, and subsequently transferred away by the College, 1943-1958; bound preliminary studies for Hall Auditorium, the Oberlin Inn, and the Women’s Dormitory complex from Snyder, 1947-1951; rudimentary planning materials for Minoru Yamasaki’s Conservatory of Music complex, 1958-1959; and detailed perspectives and renderings by Snyder of the Coeducation Centennial Memorial Gateway, 1949-1952. Materials are also available which document the installation and maintenance of the organs in Finney Chapel, Hall Auditorium, and Warner Hall, 1928-1953.

[11] Papers of Robert K. Carr, 1959-1975, 66.15 l.f.

Biographical Note

Robert Kenneth Carr (1908-1979), a distinguished scholar of law and political science, served as Oberlin’s ninth president from 1960 to 1970. Born in Cleveland, Ohio, Carr was educated at Dartmouth College (A.B. 1929) and at Harvard University (A.M. 1930, Ph.D. 1935). Prior to his appointment as Oberlin’s president in 1960, Carr taught at Dartmouth College and the University of Oklahoma. At Oberlin, Carr’s presidency was marked by institutional change and marred by campus unrest over the Vietnam War and U.S. involvement in Southeast Asia. Campus demonstrations and calls for curriculum reform led to Carr’s resignation in November, 1970. He returned to Oberlin in 1975 to teach constitutional law until his retirement in 1978, and was earlier recognized when the Carr Pool in the Jesse Philips Physical Education Center was named and dedicated in his honor.

During Carr’s tenure as president, the College’s physical plant saw substantial growth and modernization, with the construction of 15 new buildings and the renovation of older ones. Carr’s ability to raise funds helped to secure $15 million to finance the construction of a men’s gymnasium for the Department of Athletics (Philips Physical Education Center, dedicated in 1971), and a new central library (Seeley G. Mudd Learning Center, completed in 1974). Other significant projects constructed during Carr’s administration include the Kettering Hall of Science (dedicated 1961), the Conservatory of Music (dedicated 1964), and the multi-phased King Humanities Building (1966), the latter two designed by architect Minoru Yamasaki. In addition, residential life took on a new character as large dormitory complexes, such as North Hall (dedicated 1963) and South Hall (dedicated 1964), transformed student residential life. New dormitories--Barnard, Zechiel, and others--dedicated in 1968 and designed by the New York firm of Moore and Hutchins elaborated on this larger and utilitarian, albeit slightly impersonal, motif of size and function intended to balance the north and south sides of this large campus. Warner Hall, the old Conservatory of Music structure erected in the 1880s, was the most significant loss to the times. It was razed in October, 1964, to make way for the King Building. Oberlin’s built environment, much like its administrative and intellectual environment, underwent many changes and transformations during the 1960s.

Scope and Content

Organized around six subgroups, the records of Oberlin College President Robert K. Carr, 1959-1975, occupy 66.15 l.f. Materials of architectural substance are found in Subgroup I “Administrative Files,” Subgroup II “Files Relating to the Board of Trustees,” Subgroup IV “Academic Departments, Administrative Offices, and Program Files,” and Subgroup V “Student Life Files.”

The annual reports in series 1 of the administrative files (subgroup 1) detail the administrative planning issues and phases of college building projects during the Carr and William E. Stevenson administrations. Included in the two folders, 1952-1969, are the bound reports received from the Buildings and Grounds Department. In addition to budget and building progress statements, researchers will find inter-office correspondence regarding the nature and scope of building projects, as well as scattered correspondence with trustees and donors relative to endowment campaigns for the College’s building fund. The only significant architect correspondence in subgroup I is located in Series 9 “Name Files,” consisting of one folder of communication with Conservatory of Music and King Building architect Minoru Yamasaki, 1960-1966.

Trustee meeting minutes, notes, agendas, correspondence, and cost itemizations for the period 1960 to 1968 are held in Subgroup II, Series 2 “Trustee Committees.” Modest architectural materials are filed as “Trustee Building Committee (1960-68)” and “Faculty Building Committee (1961-1963),” and they mainly consist of items relative to the property maintained by the estate of Charles Martin Hall, including a plot plan; dormitory and faculty housing, 1965; and the expansion of the Oberlin Inn, 1966. The latter includes cost estimates and correspondence with Cleveland architect Joseph Ceruti and correspondence and planning materials regarding the construction of Philips Gymnasium, designed by Boston architect Hugh Stubbins. A limited number of items relative to the planning and construction of new dormitory facilities, 1961-1963, originate with the “Dormitory Committee” (series 2); however, the most substantial representation of dormitory planning and construction is filed under subgroup V (see below).

The most sizable body of architectural documentation is held in Series 2 “Administrative Offices, 1960-1970,” of subgroup IV. Under the subheading of “Buildings and Grounds” (series 2), the voluminous architectural records consist of: architect planning materials, correspondence, consultant reports and conference minutes; notes and minutes relative to Trustee Buildings and Grounds, the Space Utilization, and the Faculty Buildings committees, including presentation materials, scattered architectural drawings, and voluminous inter-office correspondence, as well as maintenance reports, budget itemizations, and printed materials such as College-issued reports and news clippings.

Materials regarding the work of architects in series 2 of subgroup IV include listings of architects contacted for project bids, as well as reports of consulting architects such as Ralph E. Ellsworth ’29, whose 1963 recommendation on College Library facilities helped College Library Director Eileen Thornton win approval for the construction of what became known as the Mudd Learning Center (now Mudd Center). Other significant items include: conference reports and correspondence with dormitory architects Moore and Hutchins, 1963-1967; news releases and correspondence with Oberlin Inn addition architectural firm Joseph Ceruti-Febo Associates, 1963-1967; and correspondence and a limited number of planning proposals for the new gym and library from architect Hugh Stubbins, 1963-1967. Some of the most important architectural materials located here document the work of Warner, Burns, Toan, and Lundy (WBTL), 1965-1966; included are the firm’s proposals for the new library (and gymnasium), as well as 8x10 black and white photos of floor plans, site plans, HVAC plans, a cross-section drawing of the library, and a perspective of the front entranceway. Also found here are WBTL contracts, memoranda, and firm history and information. Other considerable materials for both Stubbins and WBTL are found in series 2 under the respective headings of “Men’s Gym (1964-1970, 3 folders)” and “Library (1963-1970, 4 folders).” These sizable records include planning notes and preliminary program presentations, trustee committee notes, news clippings, architect and inter-office correspondence, budgets, and project status reports. Other files of significance, which contain architect correspondence and a limited number of drawings, planning materials, proposals, and project memoranda, include records for the addition to the Allen Memorial Art Museum, 1965-1970, and the King Building, 1955-1967. All other structures extant during the Carr administration are represented by files within series 2 of subgroup IV.

The most substantial holding of architectural materials documenting the planning and construction of dormitory facilities at Oberlin within this group is located in Series 7 “Student Services” of Subgroup V “Student Life Files.” For example, two boxes of inter-office correspondence, administrative records, program and planning notes, dormitory architectural firm Moore and Hutchins conference reports and correspondence, maintenance reports, special Trustee Committee on Dormitories memoranda, and minor landscaping notes and plans are held in Subseries 3 “Housing,” 1957-1969. Especially notable among these records is a folder of items documenting the naming of college dormitories, 1955-1963.

[12] Papers of Robert W. Fuller, 1960-1980, 19 l.f.

Biographical Note

Robert Works Fuller (b. 1936) was the tenth president of Oberlin College, serving between 1970 and 1974. An educator, physicist, and social activist, he attended Oberlin on a Ford Foundation Early Entrance Scholarship from 1952 to 1955. Fuller left Oberlin without earning a degree to study physics at Princeton University. There, he earned two degrees in physics (an M.A. in 1959 and a Ph.D. in 1961). He received an honorary A.B. degree from Oberlin at the time of his inauguration.

Before coming to Oberlin College, Fuller taught at Columbia University, at Wesleyan University, and a science course for inner city youths in Seattle, Washington, where he was a Fellow of the Battelle Seattle Research Center. He was Dean of the Faculty and Professor of Physics at Trinity College, Hartford, Connecticut (1968-1970).

The architectural legacy of the Fuller years is to be understood primarily in terms of two large building projects completed: the Mudd Learning Center (now Mudd Center), 1974, and Philips Gymnasium, 1971. The planning of an addition to the Allen Memorial Art Museum, to be designed by Robert Venturi, was also approved during this time. The work of architectural consultants, such as Richard Dober, to evaluate the needs and efficient space utilization of Oberlin’s buildings and grounds, is also to be noted. Finally, Professor of History Geoffrey Blodgett composed individual building histories to inform Fuller of Oberlin’s aging but notable structures, such as Finney Chapel and Peters Hall.

Scope and Content

Organized into five subgroups, materials of architectural substance in Fuller’s presidential records are located in Subgroup I “Administrative Files (1969-1975),” Subgroup II “Board of Trustees Records (1969-1975),” and Subgroup IV “Academic Departments, Programs, and Administrative Records (ca. 1960-1974).” Items mainly consist of Trustee planning committee notes and recommendations, reports of consulting architects regarding campus development and structural renovation, as well as general architectural materials regarding building projects proposed and/or enacted during Fuller’s tenure as president, 1970-1974.

Items of peripheral architectural interest are held in the subject files of Subgroup I “Administrative Files of the Office of the President (1969-1975).” These materials, held in one folder per subject, document planning activities for the Hall Park property, 1970, as well as real estate control and transactions for the property of Oberlin Professor of Art Clarence Ward, 1952-1974.

More substantial architectural materials relative to administrative planning and regulation of building projects at Oberlin during Fuller’s tenure are held in Series 4 “Planning and Development” of Subgroup II “Board of Trustees.” Held in one carton and comprising 1.25 l.f. of reports and support materials for the Trustee Planning and Development Committee, 1972. Items include inter-office correspondence, memoranda, cost projections for on-going campus building projects, and a status report for the construction of Mudd Center.

More comprehensive materials documenting general buildings and grounds activities and projects are held in Series 2 “Administrative Units” of Subgroup IV “Academic Departments, Programs, and Administrative Units.” Totaling 0.4 l.f., records consist of feasibility studies, building inventory summaries, notes and recommendations from the Space Utilization Advisory Committee, project and planning reports, and varied architect and inter-office correspondence relative to campus planning studies and individual building projects. The most substantive records held in this series document the proposed addition to the Allen Memorial Art Museum, 1972-1973, by the architectural firm of Venturi and Rauch, and the construction of the Seeley G. Mudd Learning Center, 1971-1973, designed by the New York firm of Warner, Burns, Toan, and Lundy. Also notable in this grouping are: notes of the Space Utilization Committee, 1972-1974, which include correspondence regarding the Dober Study of 1973 as well as copies of Oberlin architectural historian Geoffrey Blodgett’s individual building histories for structures targeted for demolition, including Cox Administration Building, Finney Chapel, Peters Hall, Warner Hall, and Westervelt Hall; two folders of items regarding Hall Auditorium operation, maintenance, and renovation, 1971-1972; a brief history of the Holtkamp organ in Warner Concert Hall, 1970-1976; and dedication plans and materials for the Carr Pool. In addition, planning study proposals and discussions regarding the future use of Warner Gymnasium, 1970-1972, are located here. Moreover, comprehensive materials document the history and ongoing struggle to decide upon the use of Westervelt Hall, 1969-1975, which was eventually transferred to municipal ownership in 1976.

[13] Papers of Emil C. Danenberg, 1954-1983, 46.15 l.f.

Biographical Note

Emil C. Danenberg (1917-1982) enjoyed a successful career as a concert pianist and as a professor of pianoforte before becoming Oberlin College’s eleventh president. Educated at UCLA (A.B. 1942, A.M. 1944), Danenberg joined the faculty of the Oberlin Conservatory of Music in 1944. Between 1970 and 1975, Professor Danenberg served as the acting dean and as dean of the Conservatory of Music. Subsequently, he served as president of Oberlin College from 1975 until ill health forced him to leave his office in September, 1981. James L. Powell, acting president for two years, was Danenberg’s successor.

New construction at Oberlin was limited during Danenberg’s tenure as president. One notable structure, the addition to the Allen Memorial Art Museum, designed by architect Robert Venturi and dedicated in January, 1977, was a subject discussed by persons in and outside of Oberlin. The design received many critical architectural reviews for its bold yet indirect checkerboard augmentation of Cass Gilbert’s original warm Mediterranean style. As president, Danenberg was active in the oversight of renovation and restoration proposals as well as other campus buildings and grounds projects.

Scope and Content

The papers of Oberlin College President Emil C. Danenberg are organized into thirteen record series. Records of architectural substance are filed in Series XII “General Files.”

Comprising 30 folders of architecturally-based materials and spanning the period 1974 to 1982, Series XII “General Files” mainly consists of the following: inter-office correspondence, project budgets, board of trustee minutes and agendas, and planning notes from the Space Utilization Committee and the College’s Planning and Construction Office; special inter-office correspondence regarding the formation of a “Standing Committee on College Architecture"; rudimentary plans for the rearrangement of office space in the Cox Administration Building and for proposed renovation and restoration of campus facilities such as the Carnegie Library, Mudd Center, the Oberlin Inn, and Warner Concert Hall; and architect correspondence from the firm of Venturi and Rauch of Philadelphia relative to the addition to the Allen Memorial Art Museum, as well as proposals to rehabilitate the studio domes located behind the art museum. All campus structures extant during Danenberg’s presidential administration are represented in these files.

[14] Papers of S. Frederick Starr, 1983-1994, 76 l.f.

Biographical Note

Academician, educator, and musician, S. Frederick Starr (b. 1940) served as Oberlin College’s twelfth president (1983-1994). Starr was educated at Yale University (B.A. 1962), at King’s College of Cambridge University (M.A. 1964), and at Princeton University (Ph.D. 1968). Many campus observers described Starr as a Renaissance man, whose interests and expertise covered such topics as architecture, archeology, music, and Soviet and Eastern European affairs.

Construction projects during Starr’s presidency were primarily supported by $17.5 million which was raised as part of an $80 million capital campaign for Oberlin, the largest in the history of Oberlin College. New construction during Starr’s administration included the Langston Hall addition, 1987; the Clark Bandstand, 1987; the Conservatory of Music Library addition, 1988; Stevenson Hall, 1989; Sperry Neuroscience Building, 1990; and the Heisman Field House, 1992. Starr’s administration was not only preoccupied with new construction, but also with repairing and maintaining buildings in the college’s physical plant, recognized as an important asset [Oberlin College Observer , 10/1/87]. Numerous other projects affecting Oberlin’s physical and aesthetic appearance were proposed and completed during this era. Nine residence halls were renovated, as were Carnegie Library, Cox Administration Building, Finney Chapel, Warner Concert Hall, and Wilder Hall.

When S. Frederick Starr assumed the presidency of Oberlin College in 1983, Vice-President for Business and Finance Dayton Livingston oversaw facilities and operations management with the assistance of Joseph P. Metro, director of the physical plant. Promoted to the new position of associate vice-president for operations in 1984, Metro continued to direct the practical and financial aspects of facilities management under Livingston; Michael Getter, director of the physical plant, assisted him. No general faculty or advisory committees tended to the aesthetic decisions affecting Oberlin’s built environment. In 1986, to remedy this administrative oversight, Starr created an Architectural Review Committee. In 1988, with Livingston’s retirement and a reorganization of business and financial functions, a new division for operations was created with Donna Raynsford as its vice-president. During this time, the board of trustees continued to exercise its influence over Oberlin’s built environment through its own standing Buildings and Grounds Committee.

Scope and Content

The papers of S. Frederick Starr are arranged in 18 record series, consisting largely of budgetary files, correspondence, meeting minutes, and reports. Four of the 18 series contain files directly pertinent to Oberlin’s built environment; these include Series VI. Committee Files, Series XI. Miscellaneous Files re: Divisions, Departments, and Administrative Units, Series XV. Special Initiatives & Project Files, and Series XVII. Subject Files. These files represent a mix of the original, information copy, and personally annotated documentation created and received by President Starr during his eleven year presidency. In most cases, they do not constitute complete documentation of a project or committee. Key correspondents include Michael Getter, Dayton Livingston, Joseph P. Metro, Donna Raynsford, and Grounds Department Manager Edward Thompson.

The “Board of Trustees” subseries of series VI contains Starr’s papers relating to the Buildings and Grounds Committee. The by-law authorizing this body reads, “There shall be a committee on Buildings and Grounds which shall study and recommend to the Board programs and policies designed to meet the College’s need for grounds, physical plant and equipment adequate to serve the purpose of the College.” The committee endorsed projects ranging from new construction to the installation of water fountains.

Starr’s Buildings and Grounds Committee records, 1983-1990, are dominated by developing plans for a North Campus dining hall/ social facility (Stevenson Hall). Records of this project relate to both process and product. Letters, memoranda, program documents, evaluations of architects’ proposals, a chronology of planning the facility, and site plan blueprints reveal the goals, costs, requirements, and site considerations of the building. During this time, the committee was also involved with renovations of Carnegie Library, Cox Administration Building, Peters Hall, Severance Hall, the Student Union, Tank Hall, and Warner Concert Hall. This arm of the board was clearly guided by a desire to improve the function and appearance of buildings and of the entire campus. As its numerous financial reports demonstrate, the committee was also quite conscious of capital restraints.

Starr supplemented the practical and financial functions of the Facilities Planning and Construction Department and the Buildings and Grounds Committee with the more aesthetically-oriented duties of the Architectural Review Committee (ARC). Subseries 2 “General Faculty and College Faculty Committee Files” of series VI houses Starr’s memorandum creating the ARC as an informal advisory group in 1986. Sporadic memoranda and meeting minutes document the ARC’s activities through 1994.

In addition to the ARC, the “General Faculty and College Faculty Committee Files” subseries contains files on the Cox Renovation, the Facilities Accessibilities Needs, and the Natural Sciences Division committees. The Cox Renovation Committee file includes memoranda, correspondence, progress and subcommittee reports, office designs, and floor plans. In making plans for the administration building’s infrastructure, conference room, offices, and public spaces between 1984 and 1985, the Cox Renovation Committee was preoccupied with both functional and aesthetic concerns. The Facilities Accessibilities Needs (FAN) Committee was created by President Starr in the spring of 1990 “to identify the present facilities accessible needs at Oberlin College, develop immediate and long-range action plans, and present findings and recommendations to the President and other appropriate personnel.” Its first project was to make South Hall accessible. Considerations for cost, needs, and priorities are evident in the FAN Committee’s memoranda, mission statement, progress reports, and findings and recommendations in the annual reports, 1990-1992. Finally, the records of the Natural Sciences Division Committee, 1990-1992, include correspondence, reports, a planning schedule, and the Natural Sciences Comprehensive Facilities Plan (Volumes I-III and Executive Summary) prepared by Earl R. Flansburgh & Associates, Inc. This committee was charged with “comprehensive planning for science space needs” in light of inadequate facilities.

The Environmental Studies and Neuroscience & Biopsychology files in subseries 2 of series XI (concerning administrative units) contain items of interest to the architectural historian. The Environmental Studies Department folder includes a valuable memorandum stipulating the process of approval for new construction, written by Starr in response to Professor of Environmental Studies David Orr’s 1991 proposal for a new Environmental Studies Center. In seeking support for the center, Orr’s letters to Starr and to the College Dean discuss goals, needs, and possible locations for the building. The folder titled “Neuroscience & Biopsychology” contains some cursory treatment--in 1986 correspondence and a list of possible corporate sponsors--on the addition to Severance Hall.

Three administrative units, whose files are found in subseries 3 of series XI, relate to Oberlin’s built environment: the Library, Operations, and Physical Plant. A folder entitled “Conservatory Library” contains memoranda, a building program statement, cost estimates, correspondence with the architectural firm of Gunnar Birkerts, and plans for the 1988 dedication of the library’s addition. Files for the Operations Division are quite extensive, including 21 folders for individual building or maintenance projects. For the most part, these files are comprised of memoranda and correspondence, but also contain budgets, statements of accounts, floor plans, chronologies, Oberlin College News releases, reports, purchase orders, blueprints, site plans, meeting minutes, renovation and space studies, cost estimates, copies of press clippings, publicity brochures, and feasibility reports. From day-to-day maintenance to long-range planning, these files document operations activities, as they involved President Starr, since 1983. Folders relating to the physical plant, 1983-1992, document administrative changes in oversight as well as the actual routine maintenance, renovation, new construction, and management of rental properties.

Series X “Miscellaneous Correspondence with External Organizations” includes a subseries on local organizations. One folder of correspondence between Starr and officials of the City of Oberlin discusses the Oberlin Downtown Revitalization Project, tree planting, and parking. Documents from the Kendal at Oberlin project document the College’s interest in quality architectural design, community development, and landscaping, 1989-1994. Finally, correspondence with the Oberlin Public Library details the College’s history with and support of the public library, notably in making space available in the Carnegie Building, and then in purchasing (from Arthur “Kenny” Clark) and donating the downtown Fisher-Fazio Building to the local library.

“Special Initiatives and Project Files” comprise series XV. Included here are folders on the Tappan Square Bandstand Competition, Condominium Project, and John Frederick Oberlin (JFO) Monument. Files relating to the Bandstand Competition, funded in part by an NEA grant, contain competition programs and poster, correspondence with an advisory committee and competition jurors, and site maps of Tappan Square. Several press releases and clippings publicized the design competition and The Oberlin Book of Bandstands (Preservation Press, 1987), edited by Starr to “encourage leading communities across the country to restore or build anew the bandstands that were once the focus of community life.” Correspondence, site information, and floor plans for the Oberlin Condominium Project date from 1985 to 1986. Never built, the project was to construct 16 units on college-owned land on Hollywood St. between Union and Maple. The bulk of a folder on the JFO Monument contains correspondence to and from Starr.

Series XVII “Subject Files” contains several folders of interest to architectural historians. These include the folders “Architecture,” with correspondence on various projects; “Co-Op Bookstore,” with newsletters and a report on major renovation; “Martin Luther King,” on the changes and budget at the old Vine Street Park; “H.H. K’ung,” with a series of proposals for a campus memorial to K’ung. Other architectural subjects include: “Memorial Arch,” with items discussing the memorial’s meaning and possible addition of a new plaque; “Parking,” on the five year plan for renovation; “Philips Business and Finance Center,” pertaining to the proposal never implemented; and “Signage,” with materials relating to the campaign for better directional signs for drivers to find Oberlin from highways.


These records are presently restricted. Permission of the archivist is required.

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