PresidentsResidence

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.

Advertisements

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.

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.

THE PRESIDENT’S HOUSE

The President's House

The house in the early 2000s.

One week ago, a fire of indeterminate cause consumed this building, known to the Centenary College community as “The President’s House”. Many nearby fire departments and agencies responded to the 4:45 pm call, and battled flames until well after midnight.  Their hard work and tenacity could not prevent the house from being severely damaged, but undoubtedly prevented the fire from spreading to neighboring homes – not a small feat when you consider the obstacles they had to overcome: intense winds threatened to carry flames to close-by structures and bitter cold caused some of their equipment to freeze!

There has been no decision yet as to the future of this house. It’s been such an important part of Centenary’s history and actually has a very interesting history of its own! The building that Centenary College knows as “The President’s House” was originally part of a much larger home called “Brightstowe”, built in the 1890s by Wheeler Hazard Peckham. The mansion, located in the wealthy Normandy Park section of Morristown, had been sold to railroad baron William M.V. Thorne in the early 1900s. Thorne intended to destroy the building and build an even bigger mansion in its place. Before the Peckhams signed over the title to Thorne, Mrs. Peckham hired carpenters to restore and repair Brightstowe – even though she knew Thorne was going to flatten it!

October 1945

The house in 1945, looking from Moore Street towards Centenary College. You can see the main building peeking out through the trees on the right.

The Hoffman family learned of the mansion’s impending demolition and had Brightstowe dismantled and parts of it shipped to Hackettstown, where it was reconstructed as 407 Moore Street. Hoffman had enough leftover materials to build a house next door for his mother. Other parts of Brightstowe went elsewhere; the center doors were said to have gone to a funeral home on Speedwell Avenue.

February 19, 1964

One of the front doors of The President’s House. The house’s address is 407 Moore Street. Centenary College uses 401 Jefferson Street as its address.

401 Jefferson Street

The Jefferson Street entrance, c. early 2000s.

According to an alumni publication from August 1945, Centenary College – then known as Centenary Junior College – purchased the house from the Hoffman family in 1945. The Hoffman family had built the house facing Moore Street but Centenary College considered the main entrance of the President’s House to be on Jefferson Street, facing the campus.

The three-floor home boasted 17 rooms and five fireplaces. The foyer of the house featured an enormous mural painted by Maria Haydon-Buttner, a Centenary art major from the Class of 1985. The mural depicts local scenes of the school and its students.

Jefferson Street Entrance Hall

The Jefferson Street Foyer in May 28, 1987

pres res Jefferson St Entranceway, mural

Looking into the house from the Jefferson Street Foyer. 1990s

pres res closeup of mural

A close-up of part of the mural.

In the dining room there was Indonesian wood paneling, and the rugs there and in the two parlors were made especially for the house.

Dining Room

The dining room as it looked in 1945.

pres res Dining Room1

The dining room as it looked in the 1990s.

Beyond the kitchen, the breakfast room included a pressed tin ceiling.

pres res Kitchen

Looking from the kitchen into another room (possibly the breakfast room?). 1990s

pres res kitchen2

Another portion of the kitchen, a long narrow room that stored kitchenware. 1990s

The back parlor of the home had beautiful woodwork trim and an open stairway dominated by a stained glass window.

pres res Birthday Tea14

A photo of students in the back parlor. 1955

pres res Birthday Tea010

President and Mrs. Seay with students in the back parlor in 1959

pres res Back Parlor1

The back parlor as it looked in the 1990s

Back Parlor, stairwell

The back parlor and stairwell of the President’s House in the 1990s.

pres res Back Parlor, stairwell2

The staircase from the back parlor in May 28 1987

pres res Second Floor Landing

The second floor landing, looking at stained glass windows. 1990s

pres res Front Parlor1

The Front Parlor in 1945

pres res Front Parlor3

The Front Parlor. May 28 1987

Seven presidents used the house, although not every president chose to live in it. The first president to live in the house was President Hurst R. Anderson, who resided there between 1945-1948. The list that follows contains the name of each president and their years of residence/use: Edward W. Seay, 1948-1976; Charles H. Dick, 1976-1984; Stephanie Bennett-Smith, 1984 – 2001; Kenneth Hoyt, 2001-2008; and the current President, Barbara-Jayne Lewthwaite, 2008-present (President Lewthwaite did not use the President’s House as a primary residence, so there was no one inside when the fire started).

Here follows several pictures of students at the President’s House. President Seay held a monthly Birthday Tea for all students and faculty who celebrated birthdays that month. Often guests of the college would also attend. Many former students have fond memories of their time in the President’s House.

pres res Birthday Tea001

President and Mrs. Seay welcoming guests, 1959.

Birthday Tea

Students waiting in line for tea in 1960

pres res Miss Forbes and Midori Iaoki

October 23, 1960: Miss Forbes hands a cup of tea to Midori Iaoki during the first birthday tea of the school year.

First student birthday gathering of the year

October 21, 1961: President and Mrs. Edward W. Seay entertain students, faculty, and guests at tea. Standing from left to right: Martin Bry-Nildsen, Mrs. Seay, Mrs. Norman Grayson, mezzo-soprano Miss Doris Okerson (Mrs. Martin Bry-Nildsen) President Seay, and Norman W. Grayson, chairman of Centenary Junior College’s fine arts division.

pres res 1962, 12,12 freshmans Grace Helden, Norman Cousins, Virginia Dando, Ann Crissman

November 11, 1962: Guest of honor, Norman Cousins, editor of the “Saturday Review” talking to freshman Grace Helden at the first birthday gathering of the school year. Looking on are freshmen Virginia Dando and Ann Crissman.

pres res Dayna Kinley, Mrs. Seay, and Joan Thompson

November 11, 1962: Mrs. Edward W. Seay, makes a hostess check with freshmen Dayna Kinley and Joan Thompson.

The Bulletin of Centenary Junior College, August 1945, pgs 6, 8.