Council of Independent Colleges Historic Campus Architecture Project


Alumnae House

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Institution Name: Vassar College
Original/Historic Place Name: Vassar College Alumnae House
Location on Campus: located on "Rock Lot" across from the main campus
Date(s) of Construction and Designer(s):
1924original construction Hunt & Hunt
2003restoration Yowell, Linda
Type of Place: Individual building
Style(s): (Glossary)
Foundation: concrete
Walls: stucco
Roof: red slate
ca. 1924-present (2007)alumni center (gathering place for alumnae, college meeting area, dining facilities, socializing, hotel accommodations, conferences and lectures)

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

An arts and crafts Tudor-style stucco building, Alumnae House has played an important role in the life of Vassar College. Built on a hill called the "rock lot," the Vassar College Alumnae House faces the main campus on the west side of Raymond Avenue, alongside College Avenue. At the onset of World War I it was proposed that joint apartment and dining accommodations for women faculty members and the Alumnae House be built near each other and in the same style. The project was postponed until the war was over, when the architectural firm of Hunt and Hunt, the sons of the famous nineteenth-century architect, Richard Morris Hunt, designed both the three-part faculty accommodations and the adjacent Alumnae House in the same Tudor style.

Built by and for the alumnae, the house was the beneficiary of the gifts of Blanche Ferry Hooker (1894), Queene Ferry Coonley (1896), and many other alumnae. Over the years, the Alumnae House has hosted conferences, lectures, parties, meetings, gatherings, reunions, and assorted other events. It has provided a meeting place in the Vassar community for neighbors in Dutchess County and beyond. Vassar alumnae often use it as a hotel when they return to the college.

The first floor contains a beamed living room with a large fireplace and a specially created panel designed by Violet Oakley, a dining room, a pub for less formal dining, a foyer with a welcoming fireplace, a library, and an office. A flagstone porch opens off the dining room. The second and third floors provide accommodations for lodging. Since the building was erected in an era when Vassar was a women's college, cubicles were included for male weekend guests on the third floor. The Alumnae House is currently undergoing restoration and modernization by architect Linda Yowell, Class of 1973. The restoration includes upgrades to the plumbing and electrical systems, the addition of an elevator and air conditioning system, and general upgrading of the infrastructure.

I. Bibliographic sources:

Collens, Charles. "Vassar College." Architectural Review 123, no. 2411 (January 17, 1923).

Daniels, Elizabeth A. Main to Mudd and More. Poughkeepsie, NY: Vassar College, 1996.

Daniels, Elizabeth A. Bridges to the World: Henry Noble MacCracken and Vassar College. Clinton Corners, NY: College Avenue Press, 1994.

Gaines, Thomas A. The Campus as a Work of Art. New York: Praeger, 1991.

Horowitz, Helen Lefkowitz. Alma Mater: Design and Experience in the Women's Colleges from Their Nineteenth-Century Beginnings to the 1930s. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1984.

Lewis, Dio. The New Gymnastics. Boston: Ticknor & Fields, 1862.

Linner, Edward R. Vassar: The Remarkable Growth of a Man and His College. Elizabeth A. Daniels, ed. Poughkeepsie, NY: Vassar College, 1984.

Lloyd, Harriet Raymond. Life and Letters of John Howard Raymond. New York: Fords, Howard and Hulbert, 1881.

Lossing, Benson J. Historical Sketch of Vassar College. New York: S. W. Green 1876.

Lossing, Benson J. Vassar College and Its Founder. New York: C. A. Alvord, 1867.

MacCracken, Henry Noble. The Hickory Limb. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1950.

Miscellany News. Vassar College, Poughkeepsie, NY.

Plum, Dorothy A., and George B. Dowell. The Great Experiment, A Chronicle of Vassar. Poughkeepsie, NY: Vassar College, 1961.

Schuyler, Montgomery. "The Architecture of American Colleges: X. Three Women's Colleges: Vassar, Wellesley & Smith." Architectural Record 31 (May 1912).

Swan, Frances W. et al., eds. Communications to the Board of Trustees of Vassar College by Its Founder. New York: Vassar College, 1886.

Van Lengen, Karen, and Lisa Reilly. Vassar College: An Architectural Tour. New York: Princeton Architectural Press, 2004.

Vassar Quarterly. Vassar College, Poughkeepsie, NY.

Vassar Views. Vassar College, Poughkeepsie, NY.

Vassarion. Vassar College, Poughkeepsie, NY.

II. Location of other data:
University: Library, Special Collections, Facilities Management Office

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