In 1815, the Reverend Timothy Alden and members of the Meadville community founded Allegheny College. Today, nearly 200 years later, Allegheny College is one of the nation’s oldest, most successful and distinguished private liberal arts institutions. On its picturesque central campus are situated buildings that date to the first one hundred years of the College's existence and evoke its distinguished history.
Allegheny is situated in Meadville, Pa., which was established in 1788 in the French Creek Valley, astride the route traversed by George Washington on his journey to Fort LeBoeuf a generation earlier. In 1815, Meadville was still a raw frontier town of about 400 settlers. Still, they dreamed of a college that might bring the educational opportunities of New England to the frontier. The Rev. Timothy Alden was recruited to take on the task, and two months after his arrival in April 1815, Allegheny was established-with Alden as its first president.
Within half a dozen years, Alden succeeded in attracting sufficient funds to begin building a campus. The need of a building to house a library led to the construction, in the 1820s, of Bentley Hall, designed by Alden and named in honor of Dr. William Bentley, who donated his outstanding private library to the College. Ruter Hall followed in 1853, named for Rev. Martin Ruter, the second president of the College (1833-1837) and the first after Methodist Episcopal Church patronage resuscitated the faltering institution in 1833. A modest memorial in the center of campus marks the participation of Allegheny College students in the Civil War. Hulings Hall was built in 1879 to accommodate the female students who had been admitted since 1870.
The growth of the College at the turn of the century reflects its renewal under the leadership of Rev William Henry Crawford (1893-1920). Wilcox Hall of Science was the first campus building dedicated to specialized instruction; the student desire for better athletic training facilities was met when Montgomery Gymnasium was built in 1896. In a spurt of building activity, Newton Memorial Observatory expanded the physics and astronomy education on campus, Reis Hall housed the library, and Ford Chapel provided a distinguished home for the Methodist worship so integral to campus life as well as the only place where the entire community could gather. Cochran Hall, now the Alumni Center, began its existence in 1908 as a richly ornamented residence hall and commons area.
This tour guides you through a variety of architectural styles common to the eclectic building practice of the United States in the nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries. The austerity of the early days is reflected in the vernacular Greek Revival of Bentley and Ruter Hall, both designated landmarks on the National Register. Later buildings evoke more opulent historical styles such as the Neo-Romanesque solidity of now-demolished Wilcox, the Beaux-Arts elegance of Reis Hall or the warm Italianate Villa style of Cochran. These buildings also shelter the stories of generations past: twenty-one College presidents, from Alden to Mullen, along with innumerable students, faculty, staff, and distinguished patrons; the College Volunteer Company marching off to the Civil War; the first coeds in 1870; and even a ghost or two haunting the dormitories. Explore the rich legacy of Allegheny College through its historic campus.