Council of Independent Colleges Historic Campus Architecture Project


Julia Howard Bush Memorial Center

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Institution Name: The Sage Colleges
Original/Historic Place Name: First Presbyterian Church of Troy
Location on Campus: First and Congress St.
Date(s) of Construction and Designer(s):
1836original construction Town, Ithiel Dakin, James H.
ca. 1900remodeled Unknown
1957addition and construction of garden wall at rear Unknown
2001renovation of landscape Unknown
2002interior renovation Unknown
2004exterior renovations Unknown
Type of Place: Individual building
Style(s): (Glossary)
Foundation: blue stone laid in lime mortar
Walls: wood (interior, frame); lathe and plaster (interior); brick (exterior); plaster (facing with parging to mimic stone)
Roof: modified asphalt coated with aluminized asphalt
ca. 1836-1974chapel (Troy's First Presbyterian Church)
ca. 1836-1974other (Troy's First Presbyterian Church, the first Town Hall, and a general meeting place)
1890-present (2007)memorial site (Sage Commons holds the Emma Willard statue and two war memorials)
ca. 1975-present (2007)other (offices)
ca. 1975-present (2007)classrooms
ca. 2004- present (2007)other (computer lab)
ca. present (2007)auditorium (holds campus and community gatherings and events such as concerts, lectures, conferences, etc.)

Significance: architecture, education, history, landscape
Landmark designation:
National RegisterCentral Troy Historic District (1986)
Narrative: see below
References: see below

The Julia Howard Bush Memorial Center is sited on historic Sage Park. This half-acre parcel was originally conveyed to the city of Troy in 1796 by Dutch farmer Jacob Van Der Heyden "for use as a public square and for the purpose of erecting a public school or academy, if at any time judged proper." It became the first park in the city, and due to its proximity to the buildings of the Troy Female Seminary (later Emma Willard School) was originally named Seminary Park. In 1917, one year after the founding of Russell Sage College, the park was renamed Sage Park. Restoration and landscaping that was completed in September 2001 included: plantings axially related to the buildings; an archway to "Robison Commons"; four decorative wrought iron gates; and wrought iron fencing on three sides, which was based on the design of the original 19th-century fencing.

The historic 1985 Emma Willard statue, which is listed on the national inventory of significant outdoor sculpture, was restored in 2001. In addition, Sage Park has two war memorials, the 1890 Soldiers & Sailors Monument, and a granite block commemorating World War II.

Julia Howard Bush Memorial Center was constructed as the First Presbyterian Church in Troy, New York in 1836. The building served as the city of Troy's Presbyterian Church, the first Town Hall, and a general meeting place. The church is within the Troy Historical District and was purchased by Russell Sage College in 1975 for campus and community gatherings and events. The structure was renamed Julia Howard Bush Memorial Center in honor of a longtime college trustee, who was also a member of the church. As a result of interior renovations in 2002, Busk Memorial Center now holds community and college events such as concerts, lectures, conferences, and other public functions. Its exterior renovation in 2004 restored and preserved the historical integrity of the structure and protected it for daily use.

Julia Howard Bush Memorial Center, the front door of the Russell Sage College campus, is a prominent and nationally-significant Greek Revival building constructed in 1836 by architect James Harrison Dakin, thought to be one of ten surviving examples of his work. The building is distinguished as one of the earliest and most accurate examples of a hexastyle Greek Doric temple built in America. The original sanctuary is an appropriately classical counterpart to the exterior. Interior columns and pilasters are of the Ionic order. A shallow conferred dome capped by skylight cupola further enhances the interior. The grand hall includes three Tiffany stained glass windows, two signed and inscribed, and a massive pipe organ. Russell Sage College acquired the building in 1975 for use as lecture space and concert hall. The College's subsequent renovations have included handicapped access to building and stage; climate control heat and air conditioning; wiring for technological needs; an elevator computer-integrated presentation system; and balcony seating. These transformed Bush Memorial Center into an accessible, modern performance and presentation venue accomodating 400 people. Aesthetic upgrades and improvements were made to the green room, which supports programming for the stage area. A four-story wing of classrooms and offices was added to the south end of the building in the 1950s. The ground floor level has been modified to serve as a computer center for Stage students and the upper level houses Russell Sage College's School of Education.

Bush Memorial Center is sited on historic Sage Park, a public common that forms an integrated public/private venue for both academic and community use. Sage Park is a half acre public square donated by Dutch farmer Jacob Van Der Heyden to the trustees of Troy in 1796. It had been known as Seminary Park until 1917, one year after the founding of Russell Sage College. Since then, Sage has been responsible for its maintenance.

I. Bibliographic sources:

Peckham, Mark, and Caroline King. Central Troy Historic District [The Sage Colleges]. National Register of Historic Places designation report. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of the Interior/National Park Service, 1986.

II. Location of other data:
University: Library, Facilities Management Office
Government Offices

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Last update: November 2006