The Handsomest and Most Expensive Dormitory in the United States — Will Cost Half a Million — To be Fire-proof and Thoroughly Equipped in Every Particular — Will Be Ready for Occupancy in September, 1894 — Old Landmarks on the Campus Have Had to Go.
“From time to time new structures have arisen on the Yale campus, and each in turn has received its due share of attention and comment, but one whose walls are now appearing just above ground level bids fair to establish a record in excellence of design, thoroughness of structure, and elegance of material that will stand unrivaled for years.
Ground was broken for the new Vanderbilt dormitory early in June, and, since the first sod was turned, the obstacles in the way of the erection of the building have been speedily torn away and the foundations laid for the most expensive dormitory in the United States. In a little less than a fortnight the foundation stones were put in place, and the work of rearing the masonry began. Now all sides of the dormitory are ready for the beam timbers, some of which have been put into place within a day or two. Dozens of the solid iron beams are already on the spot ready to be woven into the solid web which is assuming more and more definite proportions every day.
In erecting the building from the foundations the greatest precautions are being taken to prevent any possibility of dampness from ever being charged against the building. First comes a layer of rock, then a strong and thick cement, then a layer of bricks, then a tar preparation, and then the real foundation stones.
Two old Yale landmarks have been demolished to make room for the new half-million-dollar-structure — Old South College, the oldest of the buildings of the Brick Row, and two of the venerable elms whose shade has overspread the southern part of campus for more than a century. That the tumbledown affair called ‘Old South College’ must go nobody questioned or regretted who though of the architectural beauty of the campus, but the loss of the two old elms has been bewailed by Yale alumni far and wide. It was impossible, however, to erect the new dormitory and retain them in their native spot, though every means was taken to preserve them.
First part of their roots was dug away and their branches trimmed to the lines where the surveyors said the new building would be raised, but one of the trees was first reluctantly admitted to be indisputably in the way and fell before the axe, and within a week another has suffered the same fate, though President Dwight groaned aloud when told that it must go. It was like the removal of the old Yale fence which the erection of Osborn Hall necessitated a few years ago. There is still comfort in the assurance from D. H. King, the contractor in charge, that one of the elms, the largest on the entire campus, can be spared, and will stand in the court of the building when completed. At present it is entirely boxed up, to remain so until the court is finished.
Brown Longmeadow stone is the material to be used throughout the dormitory, both for the body work and the trimmings. It has begun to arrive, and a few of the blocks have already been put in place. Vanderbilt Hall is modeled after one of the buildings of Oxford University, England, in accordance with the wish of Willie Vanderbilt, formerly of Yale, ’93. When on a visit to Oxford with his parents, he said, ‘If I were to build a dormitory it would be just like that.’ In the light of his fatal illness, which took place within a year after this, the remark seemed almost prophetic. The dormitory is to be built as a memorial to his memory by his father, Cornelius Vanderbilt. It is Gothic in type, with a touch of the Renaissance. It stands 24 feet from Osborn Hall and 38 feet from the Art School, and completes the half quadrangle on the south of the Yale campus, facing out Chapel Street.
The dormitory is to consist of a main building, its dimensions 181 by 40, and two wings, each 76 by 40 feet. It is to be four stories high, with a basement, and will have two entrances from the court and one from the campus side, this latter being an archway and central tower. The tower will be 40 by 50 feet and five stories high. Though the specifications have as yet not reached this city, it is known that iron and marble will form the material and that the large arch at the entrance will be 12 by 14 feet, with marble seats in recesses on each side.
Most of the suites of rooms will consist of a study, 16 by 14 feet, and two sleeping rooms, each 8 by 16 feet. Most of the study rooms will face the court and will have three windows. Many of the rooms facing the quadrangle will have dainty oriel windows. Private vestibules will be constructed in each apartment where practicable. Each study will have an open fireplace and every suite two spacious closets. On each floor will be a bathroom. The building will be entirely fire-proof, and in this respect will be the second of its kind at Yale, the Chittenden Library being the other. The dormitory will be heated by steam, conducted in pipes from the new boiler system in the rear of the old gymnasium.
The designer of the building is C. C. Haight of New-York, who also designed several of the Columbia College buildings, several of those of St. Stephen’s College, and the Adelphi, Brooklyn. The dormitory is being rushed along to completion. It will be finished and ready for occupancy by September, 1894. Its name, Vanderbilt Hall, will be inscribed near the entrance. It will be a dormitory for the middle class, and not the richer class as might perhaps be inferred from its aggregate cost. Willie Vanderbilt, to whose memory the dormitory was erected, has a brother, Cornelius Vanderbilt, 3d, in the junior class at Yale now.”
-Excerpt and (top) image courtesy of the New York Times, Times Machine, “Vanderbilt Hall at Yale,” Sunday, August 20, 1893