Historic Allegheny College

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.

Bentley Hall

Designed by Alexander Temple with assistance from Timothy Alden, founder and first president of the College, Bentley Hall was the first building on Allegheny College's campus. Considered one of the finest extant examples of Federalist…

Ruter Hall

Built in 1853, Ruter Hall was the second building constructed on Allegheny's campus. Ruter was named for Rev. Martin Ruter, the second president of the College (1833-1837) and the first after the Methodist re-founding. This fine example of Greek…

Civil War Memorial

The Civil War Memorial was erected in 1910 “in memory of the men of Allegheny College who served their country as SOLDIERS AND SAILORS OF THE CIVIL WAR.” The most notable group of these were the Allegheny Volunteers. The Allegheny College…

Culver Hall

In spring 1865, this three-story wooden dormitory was built directly across Waterford Pike (now Main Street) from Ruter Hall, able to be occupied by as many as 100 male students that fall. Difficulties ensued when the original donor Charles Vernon…

Hulings Hall

In 1870 Allegheny College first accepted women as students, although it was not until Hulings Hall was erected in 1879 that they were housed on campus. At the cornerstone laying ceremony, Ida B. Tarbell (Class of 1880) expressed her “heart-felt…

Wilcox Hall of Science

When it was erected in 1892, Wilcox Hall was only the fourth building on campus, but the first dedicated to specialized instruction. It was a popular gathering spot, because Allegheny College students assembled on the lengthy steps. Demolished in…

Montgomery Gymnasium

Montgomery Gymnasium was built as an armory and a center for physical instruction in 1896. The building was designed by Chicago architect M. H. Church to serve the needs of students, faculty, and alumni who had advocated for an on-campus location…

Ford Chapel

Ford Memorial Chapel has been the center of spiritual and intellectual life at Allegheny College since it was built in 1901. In the 1820’s, chapel services were held in the second floor of Bentley Hall, then moved to Ruter Hall after 1854. As…

Newton Memorial Observatory

Newton Memorial Observatory was constructed for Allegheny College in 1901 under the guidance of Mary Newton, who commissioned the building to honor her late husband, Captain Don Carlos Newton and to expand the culture of Physics education and…

Reis Hall

Reis Hall is one of the iconic buildings of Allegheny College, built in 1902 to crown the campus atop the highest hill in the center of the grounds. Until 1976, Reis was home to one of the largest libraries of any college, a collection that in its…

Cochran Hall

To ensure student retention, and to eliminate the threat of campus community factions, it was decided that the College needed to erect a building that would house 150 - 200 male students, provide club rooms, banquet rooms, and guest rooms. The…

Alden Hall

The site where Alden Hall now stands was originally occupied by Alden Academy, the Preparatory School associated with the College. When it closed in 1912, the Chemistry Department moved in, only to be displaced due to a fire on January 15, 1915. The…

Carnegie Hall

On January 15, 1915 Alden Hall, home of Allegheny’s chemistry and biology departments burnt down in a devastating fire. The college lost thousands of dollars, and was unsure of their next step when Andrew Carnegie decided to donate $40,000 for a…