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Records of the Office of Business and Finance (Group 6)
[22] Records of the Office of Business and Finance, 1927-1988, 132.55 l.f.

Administrative History

In 1954, President William E. Stevenson established the position of business manager, appointing Lewis R. Tower (1904-1993) as the unit’s first director. The business manager’s duties included the administration of such non-academic support offices of the College as the Buildings and Grounds Department and the Residences and Dining Halls unit, along with supervision of all purchasing and accounting. The new Business Office also absorbed some of the traditional responsibilities of the treasurer of the College and of the Buildings and Grounds director.

During Tower’s tenure as business manager, Oberlin’s physical plant was expanded and renovated. The Business Office supervised program planning and financial arrangements, and oversaw the work of contractors. From 1954 to 1971, 13 dormitories and 15 other campus structures were constructed or received significant renovations and additions. Tower also supervised site properties, conducted the negotiations for purchase and sale of college property, and assisted in a variety of town projects.

In 1971, Dayton Livingston succeeded Tower as director of the renamed—and slightly reconfigured—Finance and Business Operations Office. By 1976, the unit was known as the Office of Business and Finance. As the president’s representative to the Board of Trustees’ Investment Committee, the now “vice-president” of business and finance served as a non-voting member. Upon the retirement of the college treasurer in 1984, the vice-president became secretary of this committee. When Livingston left the vice-presidency in 1988, that office was eliminated. Its investment responsibilities were transferred to the new treasurer, and all other non-academic functions to the new Division of Operations and to the Office of the Provost.

Scope and Content

Organized into seven subgroups and spanning the period 1927-1988, the records of the Office of Business and Finance report on the respective areas of responsibility and administrative functions of the Oberlin College Business Manager and its successor office, the vice-president for business and finance. Since these officers coordinated the Buildings and Grounds and Residence/Dining Halls departments, extensive architectural records detailing Oberlin’s built environment are found here. Documents range from a facility’s working drawings and floor plans, inter-office and architectural correspondence, project specifications and program planning materials, and assorted memoranda, to a comprehensive photographic record of building and property construction, maintenance, and renovation. Also included are administrative notes, annual reports, and assorted committee minutes. Five subgroups hold records relating to Oberlin’s architectural heritage: Subgroup I “Administrative Records of the Vice-President for Business and Finance,” Subgroup II “Administrative Records of the Vice-President for Business and Finance (General),” Subgroup V “Buildings and Grounds,” Subgroup VI “Committee Files,” and Subgroup VII “Organizations and Associations.”

Minutes, correspondence, and subject-based reports of various board of trustee committees can be found in the minutes of miscellaneous committees of Series 1 “Board of Trustee Files” (subgroup I). Individual subject files document the activities of the Trustee Buildings and Grounds Committee, 1969-1971, and include financing projections and construction contract stipulations for the Mudd Center and Philips Gymnasium. Also found here are the Trustee Planning and Development Committee notes and memoranda, 1981-1986, detailing project planning, the authorization of design studies, itemized budget analysis. These documents apply to renovation projects at Baldwin and Talcott halls, expansion of the Conservatory of Music Library by architect Gunnar Birkerts, and preliminary discussion of plans for the North Campus Dining Hall (Stevenson Hall) by Charles Gwathmey.

As subgroup II documents the vice-president’s responsibilities as the College’s chief business officer, itemized building budget and operating schedules and pertinent real estate documents are available. Monthly budgeting schedules for the period 1970 to 1985, including inter-office correspondence and maintenance expenditures for each Oberlin facility, are located in the buildings and grounds budgets of Series 2 “Budgetary Records.” Also found in this subgroup are miscellaneous real estate documents, held in Series 5 “Contracts, Leases, and Real Estate Files” for the period 1969-1985. Documentation, amounting to more than 3 l.f., in series 5 includes contracts and leases for the Oberlin Golf Club, the Oberlin Public Library, and the Intermuseum Conservation Association, as well as some scattered architectural drawings for out-of-town properties held by Oberlin College. Records regarding investment properties that were once or are currently owned by Oberlin College, occasionally accompanied by plot plans, are included.

Perhaps the most complete collection of architectural records in the Oberlin College Archives is found in Subgroup V “Buildings and Grounds.” Totaling 23.4 l.f., this group includes the following types of records: bound annual reports of the Department of Buildings and Grounds; extensive building and project files, many of which include project planning documents, photocopies (and some blue line prints) of working drawings, floor plans, elevations, artistic renderings of Oberlin buildings and facilities, and scattered architectural correspondence; information and correspondence files for architects; and an extensive photographic record of many Oberlin buildings under construction and/or renovation from the 1930s to the 1970s.

Bound annual reports of the Department of Buildings and Grounds, 1937-1965 and 1967-1968, are in subgroup V. These reports, initiated by Buildings Superintendent Lester Ries, consist of the following: budget and purchase itemizations; detailed maintenance reports of College facilities; grounds and planting reports documenting landscaping work on the athletic fields, the Oberlin campus, the “Historic Elm,” and the Hall Arboretum/Ladies Grove; and miscellaneous topics such as rental properties, dormitory and building use graphs, and blue print storage. Beginning with the 1946-1947 report, a special section on “New Construction” is presented, which incorporates detailed descriptions of building costs, a structure’s architects and contractors, specific construction incidents and events, technical and mechanical notes, and employment charts. These reports average 75 pages each.

Topics less specific to architects and buildings, but of architectural character, can be found in Series 2 “General Files” of subgroup V. These records, though modest in volume, contain information regarding building and grounds financing and planning for the period 1972 to 1988. Subject files include building costs comparisons, maintenance reports, rental fees and usage rates, physical plant administration, and building program reports covering the status of renovations and new projects for the late 1980s.

The largest and most comprehensive set of architectural materials in subgroup V is held in Series 3 “Buildings (Business and Finance Office Files).” Materials consist of an alphabetical listing of files by location and/or structure name, and generally concern on-campus renovation and construction projects, or off-campus construction projects initiated or planned by the College. The materials total nearly 15 l.f. and span the period 1928 to 1987. Of value are the architectural correspondence and inter-office memoranda, scattered architectural drawings (floor plans, elevations, and renderings, either photocopied or larger working drawings), cost projections, feasibility studies, planning and program documents, specification manuals, and items pertaining to peripheral matters such as interior design, landscape design, and standard maintenance inspection reports. Subject files—abundant and well-documented—are significant. Included are architect files (1953 to 1968), which include references to architect Eldredge Snyder (Oberlin Inn), consulting architect Philip Johnson—head of the New York firm of Philip Johnson Associates—for the years 1959-1963, Oberlin College architects Herk Visnapuu and Robert Gaede (1957), the Cincinnati firm of Potter, Tyler, Martin, and Roth (Barrows and Dascomb, 1956), the New York firm of Moore and Hutchins (Bailey and Zechiel, 1968), and an 11-page Business Office rating of architects from 1957. Subject files also exist for Hall Auditorium, 1958-1978; renovation records for Rice Hall and the Student Union at Wilder Hall; and long-range planning materials for expansion of Warner Center and Hall Auditorium, 1978-1990. Interspersed throughout these files are landscaping memoranda and correspondence. Of special note are the 1899 construction contracts for the Severance Chemical Laboratory from the office of Chicago architect Howard Van Doren Shaw. These contracts include handwritten construction specifications and cost itemizations; they constitute some of the oldest architectural records extant at the archives. Real estate documents also exist relative to the College Park subdivision (a.k.a. Shipherd Circle) for the period 1949-1955, including survey maps, covenants, plot plans, and site improvement information.

The most voluminous files of this series are available for the following: the Kettering Science Complex, 1952-1962, whose records include an exhaustive record of initial planning by the New York firm of Skidmore, Owings, and Merrill, their subsequent replacement by the The Austin Company of Cleveland, as well as detailed landscaping records; King Building files, 1945-1966, which include documents pertaining to architect Minoru Yamasaki and consulting architects Douglas Orr and Eldredge Snyder; Oberlin Inn, 1953-1985, which includes plans and specifications for an addition designed by Cleveland architect Joseph Ceruti; and Oberlin’s residence halls, 1940-1969. A multitude of construction photographs is included.

An extensive photographic and design record for Oberlin College structures and properties for the years 1928 to 1983, maintained by Buildings and Grounds office manager Gladys Kruk, is held in Series 4 “Buildings (Physical Plant Department Files)” of subgroup V. Comprising 7.25 l.f. and organized alphabetically by structure or place name, architectural materials are represented by several media: an extensive array of photocopied floor plans, elevations, and renderings; 8" x 10" black and white subject photographs; and miniature black and white snapshots detailing maintenance work. Although one box consists primarily of academic floor plans for all campus structures extant 1928 to 1983, these plans are reproduced in the individual subject files, which also hold a sampling of architectural and/or landscaping correspondence. In addition, some subject files hold unique items of architectural interest. These include but are not limited to the following: extensive plans, documents, and photos of the Hall Arboretum, 1938-1942, and the Ladies Grove, 1937-1944; Hall Auditorium, 1932-1966; an array of campus structure and aerial photographs, 1933-1954; planning documents, site plans, elevations, and working drawings for the geodesic domes built behind the Allen Memorial Art Museum, 1971; information regarding the old and new heating plants, 1938-1955, and the Service Building, 1948-1969; photo and textual documentation of the Historic Elm, 1923-1945; a comprehensive history and analysis of Peters Hall, 1938-1974; copies of the original Weary and Kramer floor plans for Shurtleff Cottage, ca. 1892; and floor and seating plans for the old Warner Hall, 1938-1962, with color snapshots of its demolition in 1964.

Files and reports incorporating information from the Buildings and Grounds Committee and the Planning and Development Committee (on which the vice-president for business and finance served) for the period 1954 to 1988 are located in Subgroup VI “Committee Files.” These materials mainly consist of inter-office correspondence from the Office of Business and Finance, but are augmented by budget schedules for building projects, program summaries, scattered landscaping reports, maintenance and operation reports, and meeting minutes of the subject committees, which include discussion of renovation plans for campus facilities. A preliminary study and rudimentary site plans, 1985-1986, for an unbuilt Oberlin Condominium Project are also found here.

Oberlin College’s influence, and specifically that of the Office of Business and Finance, on Oberlin town government and planning is reflected in the architectural records held in Series 2 “Oberlin Community, 1953-1988” of Subgroup VII “Organizations and Associations.” Comprising nearly 2 l.f., records consist of planning documents and proposals for a 1957-1958 Central Business District Study and a separate 1961 Oberlin Business District Study; notes and materials for Oberlin’s City Council regarding zoning and planning, 1954-1970; development plans for an Oberlin City recreation facility at Hall Park, 1959-1970; notes, memoranda, inter-office correspondence, stipulations of use documents, and photocopied floor plans, 1947-1990, for the Oberlin Public Library housed at the College’s Carnegie Library; and lease information, land use inventories, and plot plans for the Oberlin Golf Club, 1965-1985. Also located here are deeds, titles, correspondence, committee reports, plot plans, and renovation plans for Westervelt Hall, originally the home of Oberlin High School, covering the period 1955 to 1977. After facing the prospect of demolition for many years despite local advocacy for its preservation, Westervelt was transferred to City proprietorship in March of 1976. In 1995 the Nord Family Foundation purchased this property from Arthur “Kenny” Clark of Oberlin to create an arts center for Lorain County. [Oberlin News Tribune, April 25, 1995]


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