Architecture

THE CAMPUS

This year marks the 150th anniversary of the charter of Centenary University! To celebrate, the blog will be highlighting information from past posts about Centenary’s history.

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Centenary Collegiate Institute, 1874

Before Centenary University was built, the land it would sit on was a cornfield, described during the laying of the cornerstone in 1869 as “desolate – not a tree – not a shrub” (Custard, pg 10). The campus was also set far back from the still small town of Hackettstown, and planks had to be laid from Main Street to the Institute for people to travel on.

 

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C.C.I. Gymnasium

Over the next 30 years, several buildings were added to the campus; apart from the Main Building, the campus had two gymnasiums, a chemical laboratory, a barn, and an icehouse. Hundreds of trees and shrubs were also planted to make the campus feel “like a very pleasure garden” (Custard, pg 57).

 

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Centenary Collegiate Institute, 1902

The Great Fire of 1899 destroyed the Main Building but not the spirit of Centenary; a new Main Building and two separate dormitory buildings were built in two years. The institution remained largely unchanged until the start of the 1940s, when it was decided to expand the campus to fit its growing student population.

 

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Trevorrow Hall, 1950s

In rapid succession, the school (now known as Centenary Junior College) built Trevorrow Hall (1941), Lotte Hall (1949), Van Winkle Hall (1951), Taylor Memorial Library and the Reeves Student Center (1954), Brotherton Hall (1956), Washabaugh Hall (1962), Anderson Hall (1965), and the Ferry Arts and Music Building (mid 1960s, which expanded and renovated the original C.C.I. Gymnasium).

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Lackland Center, 2009

Another boom in growth began with the addition of an Equine Center (1978), the Harris and Betts Smith Learning Center (1996), Littell Technology Center (2003), Bennett-Smith Hall (2003), Founder’s Hall (2006), the John M. Reeves Student Recreation Center (2006, which expanded and renovated the original Reeves Student Center), and the Lackland Center (2009). Centenary also opened centers in Parsippany and Edison.

This information was pulled from multiple posts: The First Main Building, The Great Fire, Athletics, The Trees of Centenary, The Ways and Customs of Centenary College, and Trevorrow Hall.

OSCAR TEALE

After the fire of 1899, Centenary was in need of a new administration building. Members of the Board of Trustees were determined to rebuild and asked several architects to prepare plans and bids.

The man who was eventually awarded the contract was Oscar S. Teale, a prominent architect of churches and homes in the New Jersey and New York area. To limit the damage fire might pose in the future, he separated the north and south dormitories (for young men and women, respectively) from the main administration building, which still stands on the same footprint as the original school. From Jefferson Street the optical illusion is of a single, massive structure taking up an entire block.

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Oscar Teale was also very interested in magic and was a good friend of Harry Houdini. Teale has written books about magic, one of which is in the collection of Centenary’s Taylor Memorial Library. When Houdini died, Oscar Teale served as one of his pallbearers and also designed Houdini’s cemetery monument in Queens, New York.

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Above: Oscar Teale, Harry Houdini, and fellow magician Julius Zancig.

Left: Oscar Teale, Harry Houdini, and Harry’s wife Bess Houdini exposing a practice known as slate writing. Mediums used this method to allegedly receive messages from the dead.

 

On December 1, 1900 the cornerstone of the new building was laid by Dr. Whitney himself. The old cornerstone of the original building was placed beside it, so today one can visit the structure and see not one but two cornerstones, one dated 1869 and the other 1900.

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By September 1901 the new buildings were put into use, even though not all construction had been completed. Years later the main building would be named in honor of Dr. Edward Seay who served as eighth president of Centenary from 1948 until 1976. Today the Seay Building is included in the National Register and The NJ Registry of Historic Places. – CBB

Cox, John. (2014). Haversat & Ewing Galleries auction starts January 25. Wild about Harry. http://www.wildabouthoudini.com/2014/01/haversat-ewing-galleries-auction-starts.html

King, Robert R. (2006). Houdini & Bess w/ Oscar Teale exposing slate writing fraud. Houdini Tribute. http://www.houdinitribute.com/img/hhslate1.jpg