An Architectural Sketch of the University


Source: Unknown. From the files of Robert J. Clark

When the young New Jersey College moved from Newark to Princeton, it found Nassau Hall rising proudly in the centre of a long line of unpretentious houses, many of which still remain. These had their share of good carpenter design witii classical details. The new President's house, now the Dean's, is dignified and reasonably spacious in proportions. The only rival to the new buildings was Richard Stockton's mansion, later romantically christened "Morven," which had stood from 1701. Nassau Hall was a very simple building designed by Robert Smith of Philadelphia, but by virtue of its massive masonry--which has withstood three fires--and its well-studied fenestration, it is still one of the handsomest collegiate buildings in America. The arched portal replaces an original square-headed one, the lateral extensions containing the staircases are later additions, and the present belfry is higher than the original one. In 1803 Nassau Hall was flanked by Starthope, with its ample and wellspaced arched windows, and by a similar building at the East. The resultant forecourt, which is shown in an old lithograph, was charming, its destruction to build the library regrettable, however necessary. Even now the view which includes Nassau Hall, Stanhope, and the side of the Dean's house is one of the most precious extant ensembles of Colonial and early Republican architecture. In a great and more instructed era we have hardly bettered it.

The first sixty years of the last century are relatively barren. Many buildings of that time have been demolished; those which remain are rather nondescript. Then came the various architectural revivals, each leaving its deep stamp on the Campus. To Ruskin's propensities for Italian Gothic we owe the School of Science and the Chancellor Green Library, erected during the late sixties and seventies. The entirely fantastic manner of the eighties happily found the building funds low. Witherspoon is the only monument of that architectural zero hour. In the eighties and early nineties Riehardson's Romanesque revival dominated the designers of the unfinished Art Museum and of Alexander Hall. To parody Dante, "Let us neither speak nor look at them but pass by." The recently destroyed Marquand Chapel was a far more credit- able example of the tendency. The fire carried away stained glass which is irreplaceable and St. Gaudens' superb bronze relief of President McCosh.

Since 1907 English Collegiate Gothic in one form or another has been our only architectural wear. Its overt and irresistible picturesqueness may seem to condone its relative unfitness for either modern administration or habitation. On the whole it has been done admirably, enlisting the talents of Cope and Stewardson, Day and Klauder, and Ralph Adams Cram. It started in two traditions, Frank Potter's library being in the ornate English brownstone manner that had entered America with Trinity Church, New York, while Blair Hall, by Cope and Stewardson, displayed the old late Gothic forms, chastened by the teaching of the Eeole des Beaux Arts and naturalized by the use of the delightfully variegated sandstone of the locality.

This tradition has prevailed for nearly thirty years, lately under the skilled direction of the consulting architect, Ralph Adams Cram. Unquestionably the most accomplished design in this style is the late Frank Miles Day's Holder Quadrangle and Tower.It shows the most refined use of native stone and slate, a beautifuI handling of planes and voids. It is so charming that one forgets the rooms are too dark for either study or gayety. Mr. Klauder's adjacent group of dining and assembly rooms is perhaps less original, but completes the architectural ensemble in excellent taste.

In the Graduate College Mr. Cram had the advantage of a magnificent site and utilized it well. There are in America few more happy relations between architecture and landscape, and the great dining hall--though purists may carp at its very arehaistie character--at least carries archaeology nearly to the point of an illusion of reality.


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