Centenary Collegiate Institute

THE GREAT FIRE – repost

The original Centenary Collegiate Institute main building.

The original Centenary Collegiate Institute main building.

The twenty-fifth anniversary of the Centenary Collegiate Institute would prove to be a critical year for the school, testing the dedication and determination of every member of Centenary’s community. Shortly after midnight on the morning of October 31st, 1899, a fire started that demolished the main building, leaving students and staff without dormitories, classrooms, or possessions.

THE FIRE

The origin of the fire is unknown, but was attributed to the spontaneous combustion of painters’ supplies stored too close to a boiler room in the basement. A night watchman discovered the fire but was unable to fight the flames by himself. He alerted Mr. Terrill, the College’s bookkeeper, and brother-in-law to current president, Dr. Wilbert P. Ferguson. The two men rushed from Mr. Terrill’s room on the fourth floor back down to the basement, accompanied by three professors who had detected the faint smell of smoke. The men, seeing the basement engulfed in flames, abandoned their idea of putting the fire out themselves, and quickly created a plan for rousing the building’s sleeping occupants. One went to notify the president’s family, another to the teachers in the ladies’ halls, the third to the teachers in the men’s halls, the fourth to the servant’s hall, and the last ran to summon the fire department.

Within minutes all were awake and exiting the building. The ladies were assembled and organized by their heroic preceptress, Mrs. Hoag, and Mrs. Ferguson, the President’s wife. At some point the ladies were sent across campus to the gentlemen’s gymnasium, where Mrs. Hoag called attendance from memory. The professors visited the gentlemen’s halls until they were certain that every young man had escaped. There were no casualties and no serious injuries, save for one young man with weak lungs who suffered minor smoke inhalation.

THE BUILDING, ENGULFED

At 2 a.m. the bell in the clock tower tolled for the last time, falling to the ground after the final chime. By 4 a.m. the destruction was complete. Nothing remained of the building but sections of brick wall. Two gymnasiums, the chemical laboratory, the barn, and the icehouse survived, as they were located across campus. The fire department, town citizens, and C.C.I. students and staff tried valiantly to put out the fire, but the flames traveled through a pipe organ shaft and empty stairwells, consuming the chapel and library. Soon after the whole building was ablaze. Every student, professor, and employee lost some of their possessions, and many lost everything but their bedclothes. That morning the building lay in ruins. Students and staff assembled in the Methodist Church, where they were given permission to go home.

AFTERMATH, INTERIOR

THE RUINS OF C.C.I.

All seemed lost, but the Board of Trustees and President were not willing to give up on Centenary easily. As early as November 7th, announcements were sent out that the school would continue its Fall Term. Classes reopened on November 20th. Local hotels and resorts offered their facilities to the Institute, and C.C.I. gratefully accepted the hospitality of the citizens of Hackettstown. Private homes were turned into dormitories and classrooms. Each home was dubbed a hall, and to tell them apart, each hall was given a professor’s name. The chapels on Main Street offered space for meals and recitation. Life continued at C.C.I. in unfamiliar settings, but it continued nonetheless. A class of forty-three graduated that year.

After the year concluded, the Board of Trustees and Dr. Whitney again began the daunting task of fundraising to rebuild Centenary. A new president, Dr. Charles W. McCormick, was inaugurated, and plans were set in motion to reformat the Institute as a day school until construction could be completed. All other departments were shut down in order to focus on the College Preparatory program. A hall was rented in town for recitations, and students boarded with private families. The day school only had two teachers, Miss Hannah Voorhees and Professor Hammond, who each taught eight classes a day.

Funds were raised to begin the construction of a new Institute, and the cornerstone for the new building was laid on December 1, 1900. The college reopened on September 23, 1901, although the chapel and recitation rooms were still under construction. The new structure was completed before the end of 1901, and Centenary was off and running once again.

CENTENARY COLLEGIATE INSTITUTE NEW MAIN BUILDING

The new Centenary Collegiate Institute main building, with dormitories in separate buildings on either side of the school.

 

 

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THE ATHLETICS

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

Original gymA very important aspect of student life at Centenary has always been athletics, but when Centenary Collegiate Institute opened in 1874, there was no gymnasium. To keep active, students created sporting clubs until gyms could be built. Men and women had ‘physical advancement’ classes in separate gymnasiums. In the 1890s athletics became a notable feature of C.C.I. life. The school laid out several athletic fields and hired an athletic director.

DenmanIn 1903, George E. Denman became C.C.I.’s Director of Athletics. Denman was also a Latin professor and the House Master of the Boys’ Dormitory. He revolutionized the athletics program – every sport excelled under his instruction. Professor Denman was also instrumental in the creation of a school annual called The Hack, Centenary’s first yearbook. Denman was the head of Athletics from 1903 to 1910.

WAAAfter 1910, the school became a women’s college and formed a new Athletic Association, eventually called the Women’s Athletic Association (W.A.A.). C.C.I. became Centenary Junior College, with Senior and Freshmen classes competing in intramural games. The W.A.A., whose goal was to promote an interest in all recreational activities, sponsored clubs and events to encourage physical education.

CycloneIn 1989, the school became coed again and men’s sports were welcomed back. Another addition to athletics was a mascot! Centenary’s athletics currently offers eight sports for men and seven for women.

KAY & ME

This year for Centenary University’s Alumni and Family Weekend, the library will have a presentation on Katharine Brush, a student from Centenary who graduated in 1917!

Katharine Ingham Brush was born Katharine Ingham in Connecticut in 1902 and attended Centenary Collegiate Institute between 1913 and 1917. Casey, as she was known at Centenary, was very active in student activities.

katharine brush 6She was on several athletic teams and held positions in literary clubs and organizations. As an editor for the Hack Yearbook, she contributed jokes, articles, and essays to the 1917 yearbook.

katharine brush 1

Excerpt, Prophecy of the Class of 1917, 1917 Yearbook:

I know that I am soon to depart this earthly life, slain in an arduous battle with the Natural Enemy, college entrance exams, and I feel that this will be my last appearance on this terrestrial ball. So, on this thirteenth day of June, nineteen seventeen, I inscribe these facts for publication, that the consciousness of the greatness of my prophetic talents may not bloom alone within my own self but that, like the genius of the Cassandra that I once was, it may live on after my decease, to all eternity.

KATHARINE INGHAM, 1917

katharine brush 4She also performed in the Glee Club and in plays put on by her literary society, The Diokosophians.

VICTIM OF AMERICAN HISTORY

What time it was, I do not know, what place I do not care
But in American History class sat Casey, sad and fair.
Her turn was fast approaching, she was consumed with fright
Her one thought was, “Oh! how I hope I won’t have to recite.”
At last the one beside her had stood and had her say,
And then for poor dear Casey ’twas night instead of day.
A name was called, she, trembling rose, and started to”expound”-
But why this mighty laughter that shakes the whole room round ?
The class was in an uproar! Casey began to fumble
For instead of Katharine Ingham, the name was Kathryn Rumble.

E.B. (Edna Bigelow, associate editor of the Hack Board)

After graduating, Katharine Ingham began working as a columnist for the Boston Traveler. She published multiple short stories and novels under her married name, Brush. Later in life, she went by the nickname Kay.

katharine brush 5

Among her many published works are Glitter, Little Sins, Night Club, The Boy from Maine, and When She Was Bad. Several of her novels have been made into movies. Red Headed Woman was made into a film in 1932. It is considered a pre-code classic due to its racy comedy.

katharine brush 2

She passed away in New York City in 1952, just shy of her 50th birthday.

The Library is excited to host Kay & Me, a chance encounter in a lecture hall that lead to a decade-long love affair between a middle-aged scholar and the host of a long forgotten Jazz Age novelist, presented by Jonathan Matthews on October 7th at 1 pm. Come hear how the wise-cracking daughter of a prim New England headmaster became a leading luminary in the literary and motion picture worlds, one whose dazzling light burned alongside that of F. Scott Fitzgerald and Jean Harlow, and, like theirs, was extinguished too soon.

THE CUMMINS FAMILY

 

The Archives holds a wealth of information about Centenary University, and any trip into the Archives storage produces fascinating pieces of historical value. Several of these pieces were donated by prominent New Jersey family, the Cummins.

cummins030Dr. George Wyckoff Cummins was born in Vienna, New Jersey and graduated from Centenary Collegiate Institute’s college prep course in 1881. From there he attended the Yale School of Medicine and later, the College of Physicians and Surgeons at Columbia University. He practiced medicine in Belvidere and specialized in the treatment of hay fever, asthma, and allergic diseases. A physician, surgeon, inventor, and research scientist, he authored many books on history, chemistry, and archaeology. Some of his works are in the library’s Special Collections Room.

cummins028Mrs. Annie Blair Titman Cummins attended Centenary Collegiate Institute in the academic program between 1881 – 1882, and in a special studies program for music from 1888 – 1891. She studied pipe organ, piano, and harmony. She was a member of several organist associations and served as organist for many years in local churches. She was also very devoted to the study of history and genealogy, compiling 423 volumes of 41,000 tombstone records from local cemeteries. She was the Organizing Regent of the General William Maxwell Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution, and was one of the greatest authorities of local history.

cummins029

Mrs. Cummins at the organ

Dr. and Mrs. Cummins were married in 1890, and lived in Belvidere, New Jersey. After the death of her husband in 1942, Mrs Cummins donated an organ to Centenary in his memory.  Mrs. Cummins donated several items to Centenary during the last decade of her life, and in her will left many possessions, buildings, and plots of land to the school. Some of the items were displayed in The Cummins Museum Room in the newly built Taylor Memorial Library. The collection was dissolved in 1980 and some of the items sold, but many still remain in the library’s archives.

A list of titles by and about the Cummins Family:

Cummins, George Wyckoff. History of Warren County New Jersey. New York: Lewis Historical Publishing Company, 1911. Print.

– – -. History of Warren County New Jersey. New York: Lewis Historical Publishing Company, 1911. Print.

Records of the Cummins, Addis, and Carhart Families of Warren County, NJ. N.p.: n.p., 1942. Print.

* Titman Cummins, Annie Blair. Bible Records, Warren County, N.J. Vol. 1 N.p.: n.p., 1941. Print. 2 copies.

– – -. Cummins-Titman and Allied Families: Genealogical and Biographical. Hartford: States Historical Company, Inc., 1946. Print.

– – -. Diary of a trip to Europe in 1909 by Margaret E. Roseberry Titman and Annie Blair Titman Cummins.

* Wycoff Cummins, G. Churches of Warren County, N.J. Vol. 3. N.p.: n.p., 1944. Print. 3 copies.

* – – -. Historical Articles of Warren County N.J. Vol. 2. N.p.: n.p., 1943. Print. 2 copies.

* – – -. Organization of General William Maxwell Chapter D.A.R and Markers Placed. Vol. 31. N.p.: n.p., 1945. Print. 3 copies.

* – – -. Post Offices in the United States in 1819. Comp. Annie Blair Titman Cummins. N.p.: n.p., 1945.  Print. 2 copies.

 

THE REPORTING

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

the scrollCentenary has had several student newspapers since the school’s inception, starting with The Scroll in 1874. The first issue was published in December, 1874, and included articles about school activities, literary pieces, and the President’s Inaugural Address. The Scroll lasted less than a year but was swiftly followed by a series of student writings. spilled ink

In the 1930s, the Spilled Ink began running. Most issues covered upcoming school activities and events, student and faculty achievements, and local advertising. There were also creative writing contributions.

prismIn 1968, a group of students created The Prism, a yearly magazine dedicated to creative writing and poetry. Now the school had two student publications: The Prism, (the literary magazine) and Spilled Ink (the newspaper).

the quillSpilled Ink was disbanded in the 1980s and a new student newspaper, The Quill, took its place. The Quill continues to deliver the news on and around campus, and The Prism is still printed annually. Both are written and illustrated by students.

 

THE RESURRECTION

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

150.07 The ResurrectionAfter the fire of 1899, the Centenary community worked hard to rebuild the campus and revive its spirit. Professor Albert O. Hammond, head of the Classical Languages & Literature Department, was instrumental in keeping the school afloat. He took on the monumental task of creating, running, and paying for an interim school for the 1900-1901 school year.

During this time, the school focused on raising money to rebuild. The school built a new administration building and two dormitories. The three buildings were separate but viewing them from the front created the illusion of one massive building.

For the next ten years, students would celebrate the anniversary of the 1899 fire with a ceremony called the Salamander Celebration. Salamanders, as myths stated, were created from fire and emerged from flames as better-equipped and more magnificent beings. The ceremony ended with the burning of a miniature replica of the school symbolizing the rekindling of school spirit.

After the fire of 2015, Centenary made plans to replicate the President’s House. Construction is underway right now. Once completed, the house will be available as a residence for the President and his or her family, and as a location for special events.

The information in this post was taken from Albert O. Hammond, New Main, Salamander Celebration, and The President’s House.

THE CONFLAGRATION(S)

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

Centenary has faced many trials throughout its 150 years, including two fires that occurred over a century apart. Both fires were of unknown origin.

150.06 The Conflagration 1

THE GREAT FIRE OF 1899

The first fire broke out in the original Main Building on October 31st, 1899. The Main Building was one of only a few buildings on campus and housed all of Centenary Collegiate Institute’s dormitories and most of its classrooms and meeting areas. It was built between 1869 and 1874.

Shortly after midnight, a night watchman discovered a fire in the basement and, being unable to fight the flames himself, awoke the institute’s bookkeeper. The two men, joined by three professors roused by the smell of smoke, found the basement fully engulfed. They quickly set out to awaken the building’s occupants, and within minutes, all were awake and exiting the building.

Although the building was destroyed, there were no casualties or injuries. Centenary created an interim program to allow students to finish the school year, and ran a day school while a new building was being constructed.

THE PRESIDENT’S HOUSE

On January 7th, 2015, Centenary University (then Centenary College) suffered another great loss – the President’s House. The President’s House was actually assembled from pieces of an earlier house, an 1890s mansion that originally stood in Morristown. It was moved in the early 1900s by the Hoffman Family, who rebuilt it and lived there for the next thirty-five years. Centenary (Centenary Junior College) purchased the house in August 1945, and turned it into the president’s residence and working space.

Fire departments were alerted to the fire at 4:45 PM, and over 22 different agencies responded to offer their help. Responders to the scene were plagued by bitterly cold temperatures and intense winds that thwarted their rescue efforts. They battled the flames until well after midnight, but the house was a total loss. The president at the time, President Barbara-Jayne Lewthwaite, did not use the house as a residence, so it was unoccupied when the fire started and there were no casualties. Immediately afterwards, plans were made to rebuild the house, and construction is underway. Centenary looks forward to using the new house once it is completed.