Council of Independent Colleges Historic Campus Architecture Project


Thomson Hall

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Institution Name: Wilson College
Original/Historic Place Name: Thomson Hall
Location on Campus:
Date(s) of Construction and Designer(s):
1903original construction Unknown
2002restoration of auditorium Garncey, Elmer
Type of Place: Individual building
Style(s): (Glossary)
Foundation: limestone
Walls: limestone
Roof: slate
ca. 1904-present (2007)auditorium
ca. 2004-present (2007)academic department building (music)
ca. 2004-present (2007)chapel
ca. 2004-present (2007)other (Cumberland Valley School of Music)
ca. 2004-present (2007)administration (including President's office)

Significance: architecture, history
Landmark designation:
National RegisterWilson College (1995)
Narrative: see below
References: see below

This is one of the campus buildings most visited by the public. The Music Auditorium, located on the first floor, has distinctive architectural merit and outstanding acoustics. The Auditorium was designed by Elmer Garncey of New York in 1904. It contains a recently-restored Moller organ designed by Virgil Fox in 1937, and it retains its original seats, trim, music shell, and decorative detailing.

Frank Thomson, in whose memory the building is named, distinguished himself in the Civil War. He later became president of the Pennsylvania Railroad.

In 2002, the Music Auditorium was completely restored (plaster, gilt, decorative moldings, music shell, seats, floors) through gifts from College donors and through a Keystone Historic Preservation grant from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. Such grants are rarely awarded to colleges or universities in Pennsylvania. We believe that Wilson College is only the second institution of higher education to be so honored.

From National Register report:

Thomson Hall is constructed of roughly coursed rock-faced limestone in a Baroque Jacobethan style. The building is two and a half stories high and six bays wide. It has a great deal of surface variety including frontal gables at each end, wall dormers with half-round parapet tops, a semi-hexagonal projecting bay at the north end of the facade and a multi-sided turret. The six bays actually consist of grouped sets of windows, usually in vertical pairs separated by a stone column. Windows have six-over-one light sash. Light color sandstone trims the windows and forms a belt course around the building. The entrance is near the center of the building and includes a semi-circular arched doorway with an enframement in relief of cut stone including paired pilasters topped with spheres and a Baroque cartouche.

I. Bibliographic sources:

Preservation Associates. National Register of Historic Places Continuation Sheets. 1994. Wilson College, Chambersburg. PA.

Reed, Paula S. Wilson College. National Register of Historic Places designation report. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of the Interior/National Park Service, 1995.

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

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Last update: November 2006