Life at Princeton University came to a virtual standstill after the United States declared war on Germany in April 1917. Men from the classes of 1917, 1918, and 1919 volunteered en masse; the eating clubs closed, classes were drastically curtailed, and the university commonly buckled down for the duration.
Among the first casualties was Princeton's booming construction program, begun
under Woodrow Wilson and continued by John Grier Hibben. Following the 1917
completion of the dining hall complex centered around Madison Hall,
Princeton did not erect any new buildings for five years. Shortages of material and skilled labor, combined with the restrictions of the war economy, frustrated the university's expansion plans.
Normalcy returned to campus life only in 1922. In order to make up for these years of privation, and to meet the needs of a now increased undergraduate population, Princeton launched a building campaign that surpassed even the rapid expansion that had occurred before the war. Called the "Campaign for the Endowment Fund," this, the first of Princeton's capital campaigns, focused on upgrading the university's physical plant in five areas: new dormitories; a building for the School of Architecture; a chemistry laboratory; an extension to McCosh Hall; and a new engineering building.
Much of this construction grew out of necessity. Undergraduate enrollment
boomed after World War I, which caused a severe shortage of dormitory space,
and a series of tragic fires in the 1920s destroyed three of the University's
most heavily used facilities: Dickinson Hall,
and the John C. Green School of Science.
Looked at in another light, these fires also cleared prime sites in the academic core of the campus for a suite of impressive new structures.
The post-war years witnessed a significant expansion of Princeton's academic
facilities. Dickinson, Green,
Frick Chemical Laboratory,
and Fine (now called Jones)
completed the modernization program for Princeton's classrooms and laboratories that had been initiated before the war. Yet, the signature structure of this period was the University Chapel
by Ralph Adams Cram, Princeton's supervising architect.
This modernization program on the academic side was matched by a concurrent wave of dormitory construction designed to solve the perennial problem of students living in town. Even after the war, as much as a quarter of the student body lived off-campus, to the detriment (in the view of the Trustees and the administration) of the collegiate experience. The erection of new dorms enabled every student to find a room on campus.
Constituting the third wave of Collegiate Gothic dormitories on the campus,
most of these structures were part of a related group of buildings stretching
south of Blair Arch: Lockhart,
located behind Patton, also date from this period. The last of Princeton's Collegiate Gothic dormitories, Joline, completed the northwest corner of the Blair-Campbell quadrangle in 1933.
Elsewhere around the campus and the town, buildings to serve specialized
functions were constructed throughout the 1920s. By and large, these buildings
conformed with the prevailing architectural style. For example, Baker Rink,
built in 1922 as a memorial to the legendary Hobey Baker '14, was a conventional Collegiate Gothic structure. Similarly, when the old McCosh Infirmary (built 1893)
was replaced with a modern building in 1925, architect Charles Z. Klauder selected a Collegiate Gothic design in brick that mirrored its neighbors, Palmer Physical Laboratory and Guyot. McCarter Theater,
built for Triangle Club in 1930, also utilized a Collegiate Gothic style, complete with an impressive tower.
For most of this period, Princeton's architectural fortunes were in the hands of Ralph Adams Cram, who, as supervising architect, influenced the design and placement of all new buildings on the campus. His essential scheme for Princeton, conceived shortly after his appointment in 1906, called for academic structures to be concentrated in the northeastern section of the campus, with dormitories and other student facilities to the west and south. This overall plan remained in effect throughout the 1920s.
Under the guidance of Cram and Klauder (who was an independent Philadelphia architect whose work was largely compatible with Cram's vision), the University concentrated its efforts in three main areas: the cluster of dormitories west and south of Blair Arch; the chapel-Dickinson complex; and the scientific buildings erected east of Washington Road. Each of these sites was radically altered by construction; the dormitory complex, for instance, went up on land that had formerly been occupied by the Pennsylvania Railroad station.
While these large developments created imposing new parts of the campus, the
other interwar buildings grew out of the concurrent "infill" strategy.
for example, helped to define the courtyard bounded by Edwards, Brown, and Dod, and its "medieval gothic" styling in brownstone was meant to harmonize with its Renaissance Revival neighbors. Smaller academic structures such as Eno
were tucked in the southeast, attached or adjacent to other science buildings.
both Collegiate Gothic dormitories, were stylistically and physically incorporated into the existing Cuyler-Patton complex.
This flurry of construction might have continued indefinitely but for the
onset of the Depression. By the time Harold Dodds *14 succeeded Hibben as
president in 1933, the University was in no financial position to undertake any
significant construction projects. Indeed, the final two buildings of the
interwar years, the FitzRandolph Observatory
were both completed the year Dodds took office. After that Princeton did not build another major structure until following World War II.
For more information of the interwar years, click on the following for more detail:
Academic Buildings of the Interwar Period
Dormitories of the 1920s and 30s
McCormick Hall and the Art Museum
The University Chapel
Or more detailed information on a particular building, click on the name below:
Pyne Hall (1923)
McCormick Hall (1923)
McCosh Infirmary (1925)
1904-Henry Hall (1925)
1905-Foulke Hall (1925)
Eno Hall (1925)
Laughlin-1901 Hall (1926)
University Chapel (1927)
Lockhart Hall (1928)
Green Hall (1928)
Frick Chemical Laboratory (1929)
Dickinson Hall (1930)
1903 Hall (1930)
Walker Memorial Dormitory(1930)
McCarter Theater (1930)
Fine Hall (1931)
FitzRandolph Observatory (1933)