Centenary

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.

SILVER SERVICE TEA SETS

In celebration of the 150th anniversary of the charter of Centenary University, the library archives staff is highlighting some of the less well known items in the archives—in this case, silver service tea sets from the early days of Centenary.

The collection includes a total of thirteen pieces from three different tea sets, each with its own distinct pattern or floral design. Altogether, there are four teapots, four sugar bowls, three creamers, and one serving tray.

Mapelwood

Birthday

Teapots and Silver tray used during a birthday tea

Two of these sets were likely used for “family-style” meals in Centenary’s dining hall and for informal teas held by senior class advisors such as Miss Breckenridge or “Brecky” as she was affectionately referred to by the students. While these more relaxed teas were held in the parlors and “taught some of the graces young ladies should have,” formal teas were also held throughout the early 1960s by President Seay (Custard, 1945, p. 236). These monthly birthday celebrations were held in The President’s House and surviving photographs offer a glimpse into the social culture of Centenary at that time. Photographs also reveal that one of the sets included a second teapot; the location of this item is currently unknown and was possibly lost in the fire of 2015. See and learn more about The President’s House here.

sara7

The third tea set belonged to Ruth Scarborough—the first director of the Taylor Memorial Library—and boasts an impressively etched “S” on each of its five pieces. While all pieces have a hexagonal base, the set’s two teapots of differing size are unique in their wooden handles. Ruth Scarborough worked at Centenary College from 1946 to 1982. See and learn more about her here.

 

Custard, L. R. (1947). Through golden years: 1867-1943. New York, NY: Lewis Historical Publishing Company, Inc.

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.

150-5-the-campus-old-building

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.

 

150-5-the-campus-gym2

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).

 

150-5-the-campus-new-building-2

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.

 

150-5-the-campus-trevorrow

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).

150-5-the-campus-lackland2

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.

PROFESSOR ALBERT O. HAMMOND

Over the years, Centenary University has had many supporters devoted to its success. Professor A. O. Hammond is no exception; he dedicated over forty years to Centenary as a teacher of Greek and Latin, stood by the school through its extreme highs and lows, and earned the respect of students and staff alike.

Professor Albert Overton Hammond

Professor Albert Overton Hammond

Professor Albert Overton Hammond joined the Centenary Collegiate Institute (CCI) faculty in 1878 as the head of the Classical Languages and Literature Department. He taught Greek and Latin, serving Centenary for forty-six years before retiring in 1924. A “scholar and gentlemen, [Professor Hammond] stood by CCI through prosperity and adversity, gaining the sincere respect and even reverence of generation after generation of CCI college preparatory students” (Custard, 63). In 1917, Hammond wrote the “History of the Centenary Collegiate Institute Compiled from Original Documents and from the Memory of Events Quorum pars parva fuit by Albert O. Hammond, A.M., during forty years a Member of the Faculty of C.C.I.”. Thanks to his manuscript, a great deal is known about the early years of Centenary. The book Through Golden Years describes Professor Hammond’s manuscript as a “priceless original source from which copious quotations have been made” (Custard, ix-x).

Professor Hammond was essential to Centenary’s success. When the school building was destroyed in the fire of 1899, the President and the Board of Trustees decided that the students and faculty would be dismissed until a new building could be constructed. Professor Hammond strenuously objected, feeling that the students should be able to continue their education uninterrupted. It was left to him to “open and conduct the school during the year 1900 – 1901…with the understanding that he should be financially responsible for the undertaking” (Custard, 89). He ultimately accepted the proposal. Thirty-four students remained in school, taking their classes in a rented hall and boarding with local families. Professor Hammond and recent Goucher College graduate Miss Hannah M. Voorhees each taught eight classes a day. Their hard work meant there would be no break in the continuity of Centenary’s history – no year without a graduating class.

postcard 47

While Professor Hammond taught classes in a rented hall, the new Main Building was being built.

The students of Centenary called Hammond their ‘Beloved Instructor’ and dedicated the 1906 yearbook to him. In 1940, he and his wife, who taught art at Centenary for twelve years, were honored with the Hammond Memorial Gates. A residence hall was dedicated in his honor in 1956 (it was located off the traditional campus, and was at some point sold). “Invariably too, alumni speak with admiration, even veneration, of Professor Hammond, the scholar and gentleman, dignified, kindly, serious, yet with a sense of humor.”

Here follows a letter of thanks to Professor Hammond from an alumnus of CCI:

“While I was at C.C.I., I never did very much with my Greek; I gave too much time to other things and especially foot-ball, but later I realized, as you told us one day in class, its inestimable value to tone’s education and from that time on I made Greek and Greek culture as much a part of myself as possible. So that during the war, serving for two years and four months as a Y.M.C.A. secretary, I was able to entertain and instruct the boys with many a pleasant Greek story; this was especially true during the time I was serving at the front. So you see that you too were serving unwittingly. I wanted you to know this and to thank you for all you have done for me, even though my gratitude is expressed rather late.”

Professor Hammond was greatly missed after he retired but long remembered by students and staff for his contributions to campus life.

 

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.

oscar-teale4

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.

oscar-teale3

 

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.

2 cornerstones close up.jpg

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

 

 

 

CURRENT PROJECTS: THE PRESIDENT’S HOUSE DISPLAY

The library archival staff has been hard at work preparing a display on the President’s House, which was lost in a fire in January 2015. The display was exhibited in the library’s circulation area, along with several items recovered from the house before it was demolished. The display has temporarily been moved to the Lackland Center for the 2015 Scholarship Gala.

Staff members researched a detailed history of the house, from its start in the 1890s to its loss earlier this year. Two staff members took a trip to Morristown to learn about the history of the Gilded Age, an era marked by stark social contrasts, when the house that would become the President’s House was built. [A history of the President’s House can be found here]

The display board has 12 panels that track the history of the house. Panels are dedicated to different periods of the house’s life.

display board full

The first side of the display board chronicles the ‘pre-history’ of the house, starting with the Gilded Age and the wealthy residents of Morristown. Brightstowe, the house that would become the President’s House, was originally located in Normandy Heights and was disassembled in 1911 to make way for Thorne Oaks, a mansion that still stands today under the name Gateways.

The next side of the display focuses on the years between 1911 and 1945, after the Hoffman family rebuilt the house in Hackettstown, and until the college purchased the home. As Centenary’s enrollment grew, more student rooms were needed, and the president and various faculty members who had lived in the Main Building moved to Hackettstown houses and apartments.

display board side 2

The third side of the display recounts the heyday of the house – when it was used for parties and other college functions. President Seay held a monthly Birthday Tea for students, and often visiting guests would be hosted in receptions at the house. The house was also part of a historic walking tour of Hackettstown.

The final side of the display board focuses on the fire that destroyed the house and plans for the future of the property. At the moment the college is hoping to build on the same footprint and will need to submit plans for a new structure to the Zoning Board and the Historic Commission. ­

display board side 3display board side 4Although some items are quite damaged from the fire, others are in excellent condition. Facilities employees took care to clean several items before delivering things to the library. These items will be stored along with other pieces of Centenary history in the Taylor Memorial Library Archives.

regina music box plate close-up

This plate came from a Regina music box rescued from the fire. Listen to it play here

charred dish and knife

A plate and knife. Other dishes from this set have been cleaned.

tableware from pres. house

Dishes and a teacup from another set of plateware.

historical property plate

This plaque used to adorn the house.

Hundreds of hours of hard work were poured into this exhibit, and the Taylor Memorial Library is very pleased to be able to make it available to the Centenary community.

LIFE IN PRISM

For over 40 years, the students of Centenary College have published an annual literary magazine known as Prism, featuring poetry and artwork by Centenary students.

Beginning in the spring of 1968 as Through the Prism, a group of students sought to foster more creativity on campus and provide a printed platform for students to freely express their artistic voice. They collected poems and drawing and distributed them on their own using mimeographed copies. Support for the publication was lackluster at best. Fortunately, some members of the faculty recognized this as a positive exercise in creative thinking and under the auspices of the English department, Prism began to operate on a larger scale, aiming toward a true publication.‘  (Spilled Ink, 3/5/1969). At one point, enough works were submitted (many anonymously) that selection committees had to meet twice a week to vet and choose submissions for the magazine (Spilled Ink, 3/27/68, 3/5/69).

Pages from 1968.03.27 Pages from 1968 hi qual ytyd69

left, Spilled Ink, 3/27/1968

right, Through the Prism, 2/16/1968

“Prism does an excellent job of portraying different facets of contemporary life and thought in free verse. The poems and artworks are so typical of today, some abstract, some vividly real.”Spilled Ink, 3/5/69

I’M GOING THROUGH CHANGES

The design and format of Prism has taken various forms over the years.  With volumes in all sizes, shapes, and colors, the magazine leaves behind an impressive and often surreal collection of drawings, paintings, poems, and short stories that offer a window into the hearts and minds of Centenary students spanning almost half a century.

Pages from 1970 winter Pages from 1973 april

Pages from 1974 december   75 prism

Pages from 1975 may     prism76

prism1980   Pages from 1987

left-to-right: Prism: Winter 1970, April 1973, April 1974, December 1974, 1975, 1976, 1980, 1987

PRISM TODAY

With the continuing support of the English department, Prism is still published annually and now accepts submissions from alumni and faculty as well as students of Warren County College (Spilled Ink, 2012)Poetry slams, open mic nights, and other events are held to promote awareness and involvement in the magazine.   Such longstanding opportunities for creativity give students a chance to explore their ideas and collaborate with others, further enriching their time here as well as their education. To quote an article appearing in the student newspaper:

“To the student the poetry of Prism expresses thoughts on love, national concern, life –as a depressing, weary, lonely time and as a beautiful and cheerful experience. It sweeps the mind causing room for contemplation and application. Prism does indeed have something to offer everyone.” – Spilled Ink, 3/5/1969