Council of Independent Colleges Historic Campus Architecture Project


El Campanil

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Institution Name: Mills College
Original/Historic Place Name: El Campanil
Location on Campus: 5000 MacArthur Blvd.
Date(s) of Construction and Designer(s):
1904original construction Morgan, Julia
2005restoration of bells and clock Unknown
Type of Place: Individual building
Style(s): (Glossary)
Foundation: steel reinforced concrete
Walls: steel; reinforced concrete
Roof: gabled tile roof with wooden beam outriggers
1904-present (2006)bell tower

Landmark designation:
Narrative: see below
References: see below

One of the most distinctive structures on campus is the El Campanil Bell Tower, designed in 1904 by Julia Morgan. For its structural support, Morgan chose to use an evolving technology of the time: steel reinforced concrete. This feature allowed it to withstand the earthquake of 1906. Designed in the Mission revival style, this campus icon is a three-story concrete bell tower that has an internal stair to provide access to the bells. A heavily carved wooden door purportedly from a Mexican church is centered at the base with a clay tile roof overhang. This entrance is flanked by stone-seated benches that are nestled into the structure. Above the door, there are two tiers of arches that vary in width: the first tier's arch is very wide and the second is smaller and more narrow. On the third tier, two still smaller arches flank a clock faced trimmed in red. The top-most tier of the bell tower culminates with three symetrically placed arches. A gabled tile roof with wooden beam outriggers cap the composition.

Besides providing visual efffect, these openings are functional. Bells are postitioned within the arches on each tier. Ten bells that had been cast for the Chicago World's Columbia Exposition of 1893 hang in this tower. They are named after the graces of the Spirit in Galatians V: 22-23. Four of them, "Faith," "Hope," "Peace," and "Joy," ring chimes. The largest bell, "Love," and the smallest, "Meekness," and the others, "Gentleness," "Goodness," "Self-Control," and "Long-Suffering" complete the group.

The tower is located at the confluence of Chimes and Leona Creeks that were once alive with riparian plantings. Although Chimes Creek now runs underground, Leona Creek is still open. The latter, however, is flanked by a parking lot that sits just to the west of the bell tower. In 1970, the Chemistry, Math and Physics Building was built and a brick entry plaza was built close to El Campanil. In 2004, efforts were made to remove ivy vines and create a rose garden and marble fountain to the east of the bell tower. In 2003 the Ormland Memorial Garden and Fountain were dedicated just west of the bell tower.

I. Bibliographic sources:

Landscape Heritage Master Plan. Getty Foundation Campus Heritage Initiative, forthcoming September 2007.

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

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Last update: November 2006