Council of Independent Colleges Historic Campus Architecture Project


Bomberger Hall

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Institution Name: Ursinus College
Original/Historic Place Name: Bomberger Memorial Hall
Location on Campus: front of campus
Date(s) of Construction and Designer(s):
1891-1892original construction; April 22, 1891 - June 23, 1892 Watson, Frank Rushmore
ca. 1970renovation Unknown
Type of Place: Individual building
Style(s): (Glossary)
Foundation: stone
Walls: wood (frame); stone (facing)
Roof: slate
ca. 1892administration (offices of the President, Dean and Registrar)
ca. 1892library (housed two early “literary societies” which provided students with books that later became the core holdings of the college’s library)
ca. 1892old main
ca. 1892-present (2007)chapel
ca. 2004-present (2007)auditorium
ca. 2004-present (2007)faculty offices
ca. 2004-present (2007)academic department building (anthropology and sociology, business administration and economics, music, and politics)
ca. 2004-present (2007)classrooms

Significance: architecture, culture, education
Landmark designation:
Narrative: see below
References: see below

Bomberger Hall was one of the early projects designed by Frank Rushmore Watson, who has been described by the Philadelphia Architects and Buildings Project as "one of the most important of the several architects specializing in church design in Philadelphia during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries." The post and beam framework, typical in its day, is clearly visible in the auditorium area, and the Pennsylvania blue marble exterior is the inspiration for the use of stone in virtually all the College's later academic buildings.

Named for the founding president of Ursinus College, Bomberger Hall was the first academic building on the Ursinus campus, and is associated with much in the history of the College's first hundred years. The central and largest space is the chapel, which was used for daily worship and communication with the assembled faculty and students until the middle of the twentieth century. In addition, the administrative offices of the day (President, Dean and Registrar) were housed there, together with classrooms for all the academic disciplines and the teaching laboratories for biology and chemistry. Bomberger Hall also housed two early "literary societies" which provided collections of books for student use that later became the core holdings of the college's library. It is most closely associated today with the Music department because the auditorium, which houses the 62-rank Heefner Memorial Organ, is the place where for more than sixty consecutive years students, faculty and staff have performed Handel's Messiah.

Bomberger Hall was restored and renovated in a year-long project in the early 1970's. Today, the chapel (now commonly referred to as the Bomberger Auditorium) still serves on Sundays as a place for Protestant and Catholic services. At other times, it serves as the largest performance space on the campus, seating up to 400 persons. Ursinus now has a College organist in the Music department, who plays for campus events and organizes several much-anticipated concerts by guest organists each term. The rest of the building now houses classrooms and the faculty offices for the departments of Anthropology/Sociology, Business Administration and Economics, Music, and Politics.

Although Bomberger Hall is in daily use and in generally good condition, a further renovation is now under consideration to upgrade its utility services and to add central air conditioning to the entire building, as well as to bring it into compliance with current accessibility and other building codes. It is anticipated that the program for Bomberger will remain largely the same, with the auditorium, classrooms, and departmental spaces continuing to serve the functions listed above.

I. Bibliographic sources:

Yost, Calvin Daniel. Ursinus College: A History of Its First Hundred Years. Collegeville, PA: Ursinus College, 1985.

II. Location of other data:
University: Special Collections, Facilities Management Office, Unknown
—details: Archives, Ursinus College.

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