Council of Independent Colleges Historic Campus Architecture Project


Power House

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Institution Name: Vassar College
Original/Historic Place Name: Power House
Location on Campus: about 400 feet east of Main Building
Date(s) of Construction and Designer(s):
1865original construction Unknown
Type of Place: Individual building
Style(s): (Glossary)
Foundation: none specified
Walls: red brick
Roof: none specified
1865-present (2007)other (power plant for heating)
ca. 2004-present (2007)theater

Significance: education, engineering
Landmark designation:
Narrative: see below
References: see below

Matthew Vassar was extremely foresighted with respect to the college's heating plant; he realized that failing to serve the heating needs of the residents of Main Building-- students, faculty, administrators, and servants- would make it impossible to maintain Vassar as a residential community. He personally oversaw the construction of the college's heating system-an engineering accomplishment. The building in which the system was installed was located approximately 400 ft. east of the college's central building, Main. Pipelines carried the heat into the main building. The original Power Plant, built by the time of the opening of the college in 1865, is still in use today, providing steam heat as one component in an enlarged campus-wide system. A smoke-stack, no longer functional, still stands next to the power plant, where it has stood since 1865. The building itself has been modified over time. The original plant, a red brick building, contained not only furnaces and machinery but also the coal bins that have recently lent themselves to adaptive reuse as the Susan Shiva Theater and the Alana Center.

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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