A digital repository for research on the history of the architecturelandscape, and soundscape of the Vassar College campus

Beatrix Farrand, Consulting Landscape Gardener

In 1925, Vassar hired Beatrix Jones Farrand, the foremost woman landscape architect in the United States, as Consulting Landscape Gardener (her preferred term). She remained in the post for less than four years, but contributed designs and ideas that shaped the campus in significant ways. This project was the first analysis of Farrand’s little-known designs for the Vassar campus; it chronicled her involvement on campus, as well as the quagmire of obstacles she faced, and set her work in the context of contemporary issues about women’s roles and environmental issues, on the grounds and in the curriculum.

Percival Gallagher, Olmsted Brothers, at Vassar

If the involvement of Frederick Law Olmsted, Sr. at Vassar remains murky, we do know that the next generation of the Olmsted firm was engaged in campus landscape planning: Percival (Percy) Gallagher, partner of Frederick Law Olmsted Jr., was Consulting Landscape Architect to Vassar from 1929-33. This is the first study of these projects.

Emma Hartman Noyes House, architect Eero Saarinen

Many people consider Saarinen (1910–1961) the finest American architect of the mid-20th century. Born in Finland, he came to the United States in 1923 with his father, Eliel, also an architect. Although at home in the world of Walter Gropius, Le Corbusier, and Mies van der Rohe, Saarinen was raised in the Scandinavian tradition of fine craft and natural materials. His wife, Aline Saarinen (VC’35), a noted architectural critic, was the person who brought him to Vassar where, in addition to designing Noyes House (1958), he prepared a series of designs for the campus as a whole.

Spaces for GIs

A POSSE veteran at Vassar interested in the issue of campus spaces for veterans today set out to study spaces for the GIs who had studied here in the late 1940s — Vassar’s first male graduates. His research revealed that there actually were not many such spaces –just one lounge for the men to get away from the “girls”. In the process, he chronicled some of the experiences of those first male graduates on the Vassar campus.

Frederick Law Olmsted at Vassar?

There have long been vague statements that Frederick Law Olmsted, known as the father of American landscape architecture, contributed ideas for the masterplan of Vassar’s bucolic campus. But other than an 1868 letter to his wife saying that he visited Vassar, which has “a miserable plan to be amended,” virtually no evidence of his involvement has come to light. What, if anything, did Olmsted and his colleagues contribute to Vassar’s design?

Campus Soundscape: The Vassar Chime

Striking every hour, on the hour, with two concerts at 12:30 and 5:00 pm, the Vassar Chime has been an essential part of college life since 1904. Although the music that streams from the Chapel tower may seem like an unchanging element of the soundscape, it has been produced by several different types of instruments over the past century, which have played a varied repertoire. This project traces the ongoing history of the Vassar Chime, with new plans afoot for some very different music.

Ruth Maxon Adams (1883-1970)

Ruth Maxon Adams was an architect and interior designer who played a significant role in shaping the Vassar campus in the years between the wars. Most of her work was centered on interior design but as a result of friendships formed at Vassar she was able to build a number of faculty houses, in Arlington and in the summer colony of Yelping Hill, CT.

Sustainable Wastewater Treatment

From the early practice of dumping wastewater into the Casperkill to Ellen Swallow Richards’ novel proposal for a “sewage farm” of filtration beds, this project traces the history of Vassar’s wastewater treatment systems, raising questions about progressive ecological initiatives the college could consider going forward.