Butler, Howard Crosby 1892

Butler, Howard Crosby 1892 (1872-1922), archaeologist and Professor of the History of Architecture, was first Master in Residence of the Graduate College and first director of the School of Architecture. In his early student days he played leading roles in the first productions of the newly founded Triangle Club and helped organize the college's third eating club, Tiger Inn, whose clubhouse he later designed. In his senior year, under the influence of Professor Allan Marquand, he acquired a serious interest in the history of art, which he further developed in graduate study at Princeton, the Columbia School of Architecture, the American Academy in Rome, and the American School of Classical Study at Athens. He organized and led three archaeological expeditions into the Syrian Desert and two expeditions for the excavation of ancient Sardis, discovering there long-hidden treasures that enriched modern knowledge of Lydian, Greek, Syrian, and Roman civilizations. The diplomatic skill and the personal courage Butler demonstrated on these expeditions were legendary. Professor Marquand told of Butler's braving the Bedouins of the Syrian desert, unsupported by the guards usually considered necessary, and of how, on another occasion, when all the others had run to their quarters for firearms, Butler, unassisted and armed only with a bamboo cane, quelled an insurrection among the natives at Sardis. ``His tact and personal bravery . . . invested his expeditions with the charm of romance'' which was carried over into his teaching, where he also demonstrated ``a subtle instinct for divining and evoking the latent powers of those he taught.''

As Master in Residence, first at the experimental graduate hall ``Merwick'' and then at the Graduate College itself, his serenity, self-discipline, and intellectual integrity exerted an influence attested to by many of the graduate students of that era.

As Professor of Architecture, ``he stood almost alone,'' in Professor Marquand's words, ``in transcending his subject and in revealing it against its broad and deep historic background both as complete in itself and as an organic part of human achievement.'' His teaching inspired a group of alumni architects to initiate a movement that re~sulted in th~e establishment of the School of Architecture in 1920, with Butler as first director.

``If we were to ask for a motto for his life,'' said Dean West, ``I think the saying of an old Italian scholar would be most fi~tting: `I go to wake the dead.' Professor Butler did wake the dead -- dead impulses in students to newness of life, dead cities of the Orient rising again under his magical touch.''

A portrait of Butler hangs in Procter Hall in the Graduate College and the following inscription, discovered on a Christian tomb in northern Syria by his first expedition, appears in his memory on a stone in the vestibule: ``I sojourned well; I journeyed well; and well I lie at rest. Pray for me.'' His naIne is perpetuated by a professorship in the history of architecture created in 1931 by gifts from his former students.


From Alexander Leitch, A Princeton Companion, copyright Princeton University Press (1978).

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