Council of Independent Colleges Historic Campus Architecture Project


O. T. Mendenhall Administration Building

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Institution Name: Whittier College
Original/Historic Place Name: O. T. Mendenhall Administration Building
Location on Campus: southeast corner of the intersection of Philadelphia St. and Painter Ave.
Date(s) of Construction and Designer(s):
1928original construction Unknown
Type of Place: Individual building
Style(s): (Glossary)
Foundation: concrete
Walls: reinforced concrete
Roof: red tile
ca. 1928other (Elks lodge hall)
ca. 2004-present (2007)museum (Mendenhall Art Gallery)
ca. 2004-present (2007)other (Headquarters for the Center of Mexican American Affairs)
ca. 2004-present (2007)academic department building (education)
ca. 2004-present (2007)administration (business offices, President's offices, trustees boardroom, human resources)

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

The O.T. Mendenhall Administration Building, built in the Mediterranean style in 1928 as an Elks lodge hall, was acquired by the college in 1936 during the great depression, after the lodge was unable to make the payments on its mortgage and the property was foreclosed. It has a full basement, concrete foundations and is of reinforced concrete construction. It was donated under an annuity agreement by Lena May Mendenhall, widow of La Habra rancher O.T. Mendenhall, to memorialize her husband. Mrs. Mendenhall was no relation to the college's then-president, William O. Mendenhall, but the new college building was initially known as Menden Hall, because the president of the college did not want anyone to think that he had named the building, which included his own offices, for himself.

In the past, the facility has housed the college library and the public relations offices, as well as the development office. It currently houses the Center of Mexican American Affairs and the education department, as well as business offices, the office of the president of the college, the trustees' boardroom, other administrative offices, and the Mendenhall Art Gallery.

The large assembly room on the top floor, formerly the grand hall of the lodge, features stained glass windows and decoratively painted wood-beam ceilings. These distinctive ceilings are also present in the lobby, where display cases showcase sixteenth-century Chinese porcelain collected by Lou Henry Hoover (wife of U.S. President Herbert Hoover). Also in the lobby is a portrait of John Greenleaf Whittier, the most popular U.S. poet during the nineteenth century, a Quaker, and a leader in the movement to abolish slavery. The portrait hangs above a mantle inscribed with lines by Whittier that have often been cited as the inspiration for his namesake college's unending quest to educate young people:

Early hath Life's mighty question
Thrilled within thy heart of youth,
With a deep and strong beseeching:
What and where is Truth?

I. Bibliographic sources:

Arnold, Benjamin F. History of Whittier. Whittier, CA: Western Print Corporation, 1933.

Carter, Coila. "History of Whittier." B. A. thesis, Whittier College, 1908.

Cooper, Charles W. Whittier: Independent College in California. Los Angeles, CA: Ward Ritchie Press, 1967.

Cooper, Charles W. The A. Wardman Story. Whittier, CA: Whittier College, 1961.

Elliott, Charles, Jr. Whittier College: The First Century on the Poet Campus, a Pictorial Remembrance. Redondo Beach, CA: Legends Press, 1986.

Feeler, William Henry. History of Whittier College. M. A. thesis, University of Southern California, 1919.

Harris, Herbert Eugene. The Quaker and the West: The First Sixty Years of Whittier College. [s.l.:] Whittier College, 1948.

Pearce, Phyllis M., Claire G. Radford, and Mary Ann Rummel. Founders and Friends. Whittier, CA: Rio Hondo College Community Services, 1977.

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

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Last update: November 2006