Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Historic campus photos

I received an email recently from a college-age alumnus currently studying history. He asked about 19th and early 20th century photographs of Western Reserve Academy campus buildings, as well as expressing an interest in a photo gallery of these buildings. My response to this gentleman follows:

We are fortunate to have a wonderful selection of vintage photos of all our buildings taken at various times over the last two centuries, and that would include the buildings that were on the location of Seymour Hall and the John D. Ong Library.

The first photo ever taken of the campus was around 1868 or ’69 when Hudson photographer John Markillie took one standing down near the Loomis Observatory and aimed his camera up the walk. Markillie was probably the first photographer to have a studio in town, on the second floor above the bank at the corner of Aurora and North Main Streets. He took his photo showing the Chapel with the third tier in its tower and a flagpole on top, and this photograph was taken about a year before the tower was struck by lightning and the third tier had to be pulled down.

It took the school about 120 years to to replace that element of the Chapel tower, but it finally was done in the early 1990’s.

There are many good stories about the campus plan, its historic buildings, and how they have been altered, renovated and restored over the decades. Some of the same issues that people were concerned about 100 years ago are the same questions that are often raised about the upkeep of these treasured structures.

I am glad that you are among a large group of WRA alumni who truly appreciate them, and I’ll make an effort to tell their stories online.

In the meantime, this post contains three historic photographs of the Loomis Observatory, the Chapel and Seymour Hall, recently donated by Alice Heath Baker to the WRA Archives. The photos were taken by her grandfather, George W. Saywell, Class of 1897.