Chapter V: The Rise of Collegiate Gothic

Although Princeton historians have tended to regard the presidency of Francis L. Patton (1888-1902) as a conservative interregnum between the more dynamic administrations of James McCosh and Woodrow Wilson, in fact, the Patton era witnessed the most significant development in Princeton's architectural history: the adoption of the Collegiate Gothic style. Wilson did pioneer the emulation of Oxbridge colleges and programs, however,it was Patton who oversaw the building of the structures that imitated, physically, the English models.

Typified by Blair Hall [53-29]
and Holder Tower, [53-74]
the Collegiate Gothic style to a large degree still defines the architecture of modern Princeton. The spires and gargoyles that so entranced Fitzgerald, the arches used by the a capella singing groups, and the countless other symbols embedded deep in university's ethos all derive from this period.

To be sure, the fateful decision in the 1890s to abandon the High Victorian Gothic models of the 1870s and 1880s in favor of the Collegiate Gothic -- a decision that would dominate construction on the campus for four decades -- was hardly Patton's alone. The Trustees and influential members of the faculty such as Wilson and Dean Andrew Fleming West played a central role in advocating the new style. Indeed, Princeton's increasing self-perception as the New World heir to the Oxford-Cambridge tradition was perhaps the most powerful force.

The rise of the Collegiate Gothic style begins with William A. Potter's Pyne Library (now known as East Pyne), [53-12]
the first explicitly Collegiate Gothic buiding at Princeton. It carries on through to the great cluster of buildings that Cope and Stewardson designed to create a western wall for the campus: Blair, Little, [53-33]
and the University Gymnasium. [53-45]

There are other aspects to this story as well. For example, what message did Princetonians of the 1890s believe that Collegiate Gothic architecture sent about their university's place in academia? How did this style affect campus planning and the siting of new buildings? Combined with the histories of the individual buildings, these factors when woven together tell the tale of Princeton's transformation into the most "collegiate" of all American university campuses.

To trace each of these developments, follow these links to:

Alexander Hall

Pyne Library and the "Crime of '97"

The Western Wall: Blair, Little, and the University Gymnasium

The Origins of the Collegiate Gothic Style

The Pleasure Park vs. The University Plan