Dec. 21, 2004
Lewisburg, Pa. — At the top of a hill that overlooks both the borough of Lewisburg and the Susquehanna River stand four stately buildings harking back to the very beginnings of Bucknell University. In essence, between 1850 and 1909, those four buildings were the university. And they have great architectural significance, too — one of them, in fact, is the work of the architect who designed parts of the U.S. Capitol.
In those days, the four buildings formed the university's original academic quadrangle and were the center of academic (and social) life. But even if the original quad is much quieter now, the university has not forgotten its origins there — or the rest of the campus's distinguished architectural heritage.
As the result of a coordinated effort involving the university's development and facilities offices, faculty in its art history and civil engineering departments, and its academic affairs office, Bucknell has received a $150,000 Campus Heritage Grant from the Getty, one of the largest philanthropic supporters of visual arts in the country. The funding will allow Bucknell to develop a preservation plan that will supplement its existing campus master plan, focusing on historic buildings, landscapes, and other historic elements of campus.
The overall plan will involve the original quad, seven other historically significant buildings on campus, and a master plan created for the campus in the early 1930s. The initial phase of the project will focus on the four buildings in the original quad, partly because of the key role they played in the university's early development.
"Virtually all of the college's classes were held in those buildings up until about 1915," says Russell E. Dennis, an assistant professor of education and an expert on Bucknell's early years. "There were classrooms in the center part of Roberts Hall (Old Main), a museum, a commencement hall. Also, before the construction of Carnegie Library, the library was in there (Old Main), too. There were recitation rooms on the first floor, classrooms in the basement of East College, a physics lab and an electrical engineering lab. . . ."
The largest and perhaps the most striking of the four buildings is the neoclassical Old Main; begun in 1850 and completed in 1858, it is one of the university's first buildings. Now known as Roberts Hall, it was designed by Thomas U. Walter, architect of the wings and dome of the Capitol building in Washington, D.C.
The other three buildings are West College, now known as Kress Hall (1900); Carnegie Building (1905); and East College, now known as Trax Hall (begun in 1906, completed in 1909). The Carnegie Building, Bucknell's first free-standing library, was funded by Andrew Carnegie; it's one of more than 1,600 libraries Carnegie funded in the United States and more than 2,500 worldwide.
"The project's first component is to study the original academic quad — Roberts, Carnegie, Trax, and Kress," says Dominic Silvers, a project manager in the facilities office. "We'll look at the landscaping, the lighting — how it's used now, compared to how it used to be used. We hope to determine what we can do to make the space as grand and as heavily used as it once was, more like the important piece of campus that it used to be." Dennis Hawley, Bucknell's associate vice president for facilities, echoes that thought. The original quad used to be "an event space and a gathering space," he says. "Now, people just use it as a way to get from one place to another."
The plan will also help the university determine how to handle some minor deterioration problems involving the "exterior envelopes" of the buildings — their bricks, mortar, and woodwork around certain entryways and on the facades. The second phase will focus on seven other historic buildings on campus (see related story) The third phase will focus on what is called the "campus fabric" — elements such as its lighting, landscapes, architectural details, pedestrian walkways, and so on.
Over the years, a certain consistency has developed on Bucknell's campus, so that it looks cohesive and distinctive, says Hawley. Today, Bucknell's 321-acre campus is still consistent in many respects with the campus master plan developed in 1932 by Jens Frederick Larson. An expert planner, Larson also influenced the campuses of Colby College, Dartmouth College, and Wake Forest University.
In addition to its focus on the actual bricks and mortar of the buildings and the placement of buildings on campus, the project also includes a strong academic component. The grant proposal outlines how Bucknell students in civil and environmental engineering, and in art and art history, will increase their knowledge and skills by working on the project.According to the grant proposal, the students will "benefit from extensive researching, testing, and analysis that occur throughout the historic preservation planning process" and will develop "transferable skills such as writing, public speaking, budget analysis, and project administration."
The idea of seeking support from the Getty originated with Rick Rosenberg, Bucknell's director of corporate and foundation relations. Rosenberg knew of the Getty's interest in funding college and university efforts to preserve historic buildings, sites, and landscapes, and soon after his February 2003 arrival at Bucknell he began to sense the university's deep and abiding interest in historic preservation.
"When I got here and began to understand the Bucknell culture, the campus plan for historic renovation, and the aesthetics of the campus, I thought there was a good chance that the Getty might be interested in what Bucknell was doing," recalls Rosenberg. A working group (Rosenberg, Hawley, Silvers, and Molly O'Brien, assistant director of corporate and foundation relations) was quickly put together to develop and submit a letter of inquiry to the Getty in the winter of 2003-04.
"Just from being on campus for a while, I had developed a sense of the way that Bucknell goes about the process of planning and funding facilities projects," Rosenberg says. "That led me to believe that if the Getty chose to award us a grant, that there would be resources (at Bucknell) that could be set aside for this kind of work."
That turned out to be the case. The working group expanded to include Mary Brantl, then a visiting assistant professor of art history at Bucknell, Stephen Buonopane, an assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering, and James Rice, assistant vice president for academic affairs. Together they pulled together a plan for involving art/art history and engineering majors in the project in substantial, hands-on ways that will benefit both Bucknell and the students (see related story)
Bucknell's grant proposal was submitted to the Getty in April 2004, and this summer the Getty announced it was awarding grants to 25 colleges and universities across the country, including three in Pennsylvania: Bucknell, Philadelphia University, and the University of Pittsburgh. This is the third year of the program; all told, the Getty has awarded Campus Heritage Grants to more than 50 schools.
An architectural firm specializing in historic preservation will assist Bucknell with the project.
The results of the grant-supported project will be incorporated into ongoing campus master planning efforts. Hawley, Bucknell's associate vice president for facilities, says the enhanced planning efforts made possible by the grant will "preserve and strengthen the existing architectural sense of the Bucknell campus as it continues to grow."
The Bucknell project will conclude in March 2006 with the publication of a final document that will serve as a set of guidelines for preservation projects over the long term. It will be presented to Bucknell's trustees for endorsement and catalogued as a companion piece to the current master plan.
Since 2002, the Getty, one of the largest philanthropic supporters of visual arts in the country, has awarded over $7 million to more than 50 colleges and universities in a nationwide effort to preserve historic buildings, sites, and landscapes.
The Campus Heritage Grants, launched in 2002, has enabled educational institutions in 24 states to research and develop conservation plans to protect campuses in all regions of the country, from Alaska to Arizona, Maine to Mississippi.
The Getty Grant Program is part of the J. Paul Getty Trust, an international cultural and philanthropic institution devoted to the visual arts and located at the Getty Center in Los Angeles. Since its inception in 1984, the grant program has supported more than 3,000 projects in more than 150 countries. The Getty Trust also includes the J. Paul Getty Museum, the Getty Research Institute, and the Getty Conservation Institute.
The Getty Grant Program provides crucial support to institutions and individuals throughout the world in fields that are aligned most closely with the Getty's strategic priorities. It therefore funds a diverse range of projects that promote learning and scholarship about the history of the visual arts and the conservation of cultural heritage, and it consistently searches for collaborative efforts that set high standards and make significant contributions.
Additional information is available on the Getty Web site at www.getty.edu