History

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 AMUSEMENT

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.

Academics are an incredibly important aspect of a college education (hopefully the most important!), but many students found that their most memorable moments were spent outside the classroom.

150.08 The RecreationAside from classes and educational pursuits, students spent their free time enjoying outdoor activities. In Centenary’s early years, students went hiking, skiing, horseback riding, etc. Horseback riding was very popular, and there was a Riding Club for students taking riding classes, and an Outing Club that regularly scheduled excursions to local stables for all students. Swimming was also a popular pastime. In the 1930s, Centenary started hosting a yearly interclass swim meet. Each class competed in events including the egg and spoon race and ‘swimming with arms alone’. The 1940s marked the beginning of the Aquatic Club, which promoted interest in swimming, life-saving, and water fun.

One of the earliest and most accessible sources of extracurricular entertainment for students was academic. Students joined societies to strengthen their elocution, performed music or sang in recitals, and joined clubs that furthered their educational interests. The music department was the institute’s largest in its earlier years, and there were many musical clubs for students – The Mandolin and Banjo Club, The String Glee Club, the C.C.I. Concert Band, and the C.C.I. Orchestra, which thrived for many years. Students in Chorus gave town concerts and even produced records. Many students enjoyed activities that would help develop professional skills: Students in the school’s radio program spent their time planning radio shows. The radio station was directed by a member of the faculty and staffed by students in radio and television programs.

Let’s not forget social activities! Students had many yearly events for students as a chance to get to know each other better and to unwind. The school held several dances a year, each hosted by a different class. They also created the Winter Carnival with a winter themed dance, skiing, snow sculpture making, sleigh rides, and concerts. The Ice Breaker at the start of the school year welcomed new students to Centenary, and the Songs on the Steps at the end of the school year bid farewell to graduating Seniors. Students found many activities to entertain themselves while they were at Centenary.

 

 

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.

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.

 

THE PROGRAM

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 school has evolved greatly since it started in 1867. Centenary Collegiate Institute, as it was known in the beginning, taught high school and college preparatory courses. There were two college programs – one for men and one for women. When the school opened in 1874, there were ten basic departments of instruction:

150-04-the-program

Read more about the original classes here!

After the Fire of 1899 destroyed the main building, Centenary ran a day school focusing on college preparatory classes while a new building was being constructed. The institute became an all-girls’ school in 1910, and in 1929 introduced a two-year college degree program. During that time, the College Preparatory School offered programs in general academics, Home Economics, and Music, and the Centenary Junior College was equivalent to the first two years of a standard college course. CJC did so well that in 1940 the Preparatory School was discontinued. The school remained a junior college until 1956, when it adopted the name Centenary College for Women. CCW offered a number of ‘pre-‘ college programs (pre-nursing, pre-occupational therapy) that would give students an introduction to a four-year degree. By the 1970s, the school offered a number of Associate degrees, as well as Bachelor degrees in early childhood and elementary education (B.A.), general studies (B.A.), performing arts (B.F.A.), and medical technology (B.S.).

The school changed its name to Centenary College and started admitting men. It also started increasing its four-year degree programs and introduced graduate degrees. The College is now a University and continues to expand its degree programs.

 

 

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