History of Hobart College, Geneva, New York
SARACUSE, N. Y., 1893


The movement for the establishment in the State of New York, at some point west of Albany, of a college of liberal culture under Episcopal auspices first found expression in a resolution adopted, upon the suggestion of the originator of the movement, the Rev. Amos G. Baldwin, by the trustees of Fairfield Academy, April 10, 1812, petitioning Trinity church, New York, for a grant of funds to that end. This petition was not favorably received, but in the following year, acting upon another petition suggested by the Rev. Mr. Baldwin, the corporation of Trinity church founded in connection with the Fairfield Academy a Theological School. In 1818, however, Bishop Hobart, recognizing the importance, if not necessity, of having in the western portion of his great diocese a school of liberal culture, as well as a theological school, communicated to friends in Geneva his plan to transfer the Theological School from Fairfield to Geneva in connection with a “college and printing press,” to be established there. In 1821 the transfer was made, the principal of the Theological School then being the Rev. Daniel McDonald, D.D, the steadfast coadjutor of Bishop Hobart in this educational movement. In 1822, April 10, just ten years after the inception of the movement, a plan for the foundation of a college of general culture having been formed and submitted, it was approved by the Regents of the University of the State of New York, and a provisional charter granted. In 1825 new and more satisfactory provisions for theological instruction having been devised, the Branch Theological School, as it was then styled, was abolished, and its endowment transferred to the proposed college. In 1825, February 8, the conditions of the provisional charter having been complied with, a full charter was granted under the title “Geneva College,” and in 1826 the first class was graduated.

By the terms of the original charter the corporation consisted of a Board of Trustees, empowered to perpetuate itself by its own action. In 1874, by amendment of the charter, the constitution of the Board of Trustees was entirely changed and all members, except members ex officio, *2 made elective. Under the new arrangement the alumni of the college are secured a constant representation of at least five members (one fourth of the whole number excluding members ex officio) in the board. A furtheramendment of the charter, made in 1891, enables the alumni to vote at the annual election by letter as well as in person. The whole number of alumni in the board for the current year is nine.

In the original endowment of the college, the principal item was a sum of money raised by subscription mainly in Geneva and adjacant villages and cities; the other chief item being an annual allowance from the Society for Promoting Religion and Learning. Of the earlier additions to the permanent resources of the college, a noteworthy one was the benefaction, in 1851, of Trinity church, of New York, amounting to $3,000 annually. One of the results of this benefaction was the change in the following year of the corporate title of the college to Hobart Free College, which was further modified in 1860 to Hobart College. Since 1851 the endowment fund has steadily grown through the thoughtful generosity of friends of the college and of liberal education, and for years, though the endowment has been by no means adequate for the constantly increasing wants of the college, it has, nevertheless, proved sufficient for the maintenance, without the incurring of debt, of a high standard in all the essential departments of college instruction. Of recent bequests the most considerable are those of Mrs. Elizabeth S. Seymour, of Buffalo, Alanson Sutherland, of Dunkirk, Peter Richards, of Geneva, the Rev. J. F. Potter, of Pompton, N. J., and the late James Simons, of Geneva, the latter bequest amounting to between thirty and forty thousand dollars.

The following professorships represent special endowments: The Charles Startin Professorship, founded in 1825 by Bishop Hobart out of a legacy left by Mrs. Sarah Startin, of New York; the Hobart Professorship, founded in 1852 by gifts from friends of the college on the promise of a gift of equal amount from the Society for the Promotion of Religion and Learning; the Horace White Professorship, founded in 1861 by the legacy of Horace White of Syracuse; the Prendergast Professorship. founded in 1862 by Mrs. Deborah Prendergast of Mayville; the Chaplaincy, founded in 1862 by the late John H. Swift of New York.

In recent years the college plant has been greatly enlarged and improved. In particular, during the last decade, there have been added the south building for laboratories and recitation rooms, the Chaplain’s House, the Gallagher or Ayrault grounds and buildings, the Rose house and lot, the Gymnasium and Alumni Hall, and the fire-proof Library building; while the library itself, by increase in the number of its volumes and in its endowment, has been made a more important factor than ever in college life. The general improvement in the college campus and the condition of the college buildings is also noticeable, while three of the college fraternities, Sigma Phi, Kappa Alpha, Sigma Chi, have recently acquired handsome chapter houses on Main street.

At its first meeting after its organization in 1825, the Board of Trustees pledged itself to maintain perpetually in the college in addition to the usual course of classical studies pursued in simular institutions, an English or Scientific Course in direct reference to the practical business of life. This was the first instance of action by a college of liberal culture to diversify its curriculum by the offer of a course other than, and additional to, the customary classical course.

Equipment.— The grounds on which are grouped all the college buildings are a little over fifteen acres in extent. They are situated on Main Street in the most beautiful portion of the village, three-quarters of a mile from the business center. To the east the prospect opens upon Seneca Lake, at this point two miles or more in width, while to the west it includes the ridge, so called, with its lawns and villas. The college land extends down to the lake, which is here ninety feet below the level of the street. The original college grounds embraced oniv village lot No. 35, three-quarters of an acre in area, on which stands Geneva Hall.

Geneva Hall, the oldest of the college buildings, was begun in 1821 and finished hi the spring of 1822. The funds for its erection were raised by subscription among the inhabitants of Geneva and its vicinity. The building is seventy-four feet by forty-one, and three stories in height. The stone used in its construction was brought from the south end of Seneca Lake. In the history of the college Geneva Hall has served various purposes. At present it is fitted for dormitories, The rooms are arranged in suites consisting of a sitting-room and two bed-rooms, each suite being designed for two students. The building is provided with gas, water and steam heat.

Trinity Hall, a gift to the college from the Protestant Episcopal Society for the Promotion of Religion and Learning, was erected in 1837—8. Architecturally it matches Geneva Hall and is arranged in the same manner and used for the same purpose. The stone employed in the construction of this building is the Waterloo limestone.

St. John’s Chapel, which attests the memorable interest taken in the college by William B. Douglas, esq., of Rochester, is a Gothic structure in the Second Pointed Style, erected in 1862-3. It is built of Waterloo limestone and is twenty-six feet by seventy-nine internal measurement. It has a massive porch on the south side, and on the north side, at the east end, a robing room of octagonal form, connected with the chancel. From the top of the walls rises a steep and ornamental roof of slate surmounted with a ridge crest. Within the roof is open and richly moulded. The seats are parallel with the side walls and rise from the aisle. All the furniture is of black walnut. The windows throughout are glazed with stained glass, the work of Henry Sharp of New York. The chancel window—a window much admired—memorializes the founder of the college. The font, a beautiful piece of carving in Caen stone, the communion vessels of richly chased silver, the service books and book-marks and other chancel furnishings are severally the gifts of friends. The large brass cross and vases are memorials of the Rev. Dr. Metcalf; presented by alumni of the college. Over the entrance to the chapel is a sun dial with the legend: “Pereunt et imputantur.”

The Astronomical Observatory stands in the southwestern portion of the campus. The building, which was erected in 1870, is an octagon tower seventeen feet in diameter, with two wings at right angles. The octagon is furnished with a moving dome, and has as a support for the telescope a brick and stone pedestal six feet in diameter. One of the wings is designed for transit observation; the other for a computing room and library.

The boat house is at the water line of the college grounds, and is but a minute’s walk from the college buildings. It is a frame structure, fifty feet by thirty-one, in two stories, protected on the south by a substantial stone pier, and was erected in 1877. The cost of construction was largely defrayed by funds raised by ladies of Geneva.

The South Building, designed especially for the chemical and physical departments, was erected in 1879—So from funds contributed by friends of the college, the principal sum coming from Mrs. Julia Douglas Merritt. through Mr. William B. Douglas. The building is constructed of Waterloo stone, point dressed, and is thirty-five feet by seventy, two stories in height, with a gable roof. It contains in the basement a working laboratory for metallurgy and general chemistry, and on the first floor a large octagonal lecture room for the chemical department, and side rooms for offices, balance and apparatus; and on the second floor for the use of the department of physics, a lecture room similar to that on the first floor, with working rooms adjoining. The building also contains two lecture rooms for other departments of college instruction. In the gable on the north side of the building are mounted the college clock and chimes, the gift of the Misses Cam mann of Geneva.

The Library Building is a substantial fire proof edifice in the early English style of architecture, with basement and sub-basement. It stands forty-eight feet west of the chapel, and architecturally harmonizes with that building. It is constructed of Waterloo stone with Onondaga limestone trimmings, and is sixty-four feet by thirty-six, and was erected in 1885—6. It is furnished with galleries and is arranged in alcoves, each alcove being suitably equipped for reading and study. The furniture and the woodwork throughout, except the floors, are of polished ash. The building is well lighted and is heated with steam. The basement is fitted as a lecture room. For this long needed accession to the college plant, the college is indebted to many friends, and especially to Mrs. Julia Douglas Merritt through Mr. William B. Douglas, the senior trustee. Conspicuous in the building are the many tablets of engraved brass which have been erected to perpetuate the names of benefactors or of their kindred, and the memory of benefactions to the library and the college. The building is constructed with reference to extension to the north at a future date, when the present porch will become the center of the completed work.

Alumni Hall, erected in 1886—7, principally from funds contributed by the alumni, is a substantial brick building, eighty eight feet by twenty-seven, with an extension on the north side twenty-one and onehalf feet. by fourteen for hail and stairway. It stands on the south line of the college quadrangle, half way between the south building and the astronomical observatory. It is four stories in height. The first two stories are occupied by the gymnasium. The third story is fitted for lecture rooms with special adaptation to the wants of the departments of mathematics and drawing. The rooms on this floor when thrown open form a hail for the use of the alumni at their meetings. The fourth story is devoted to the geological and mineralogical cabinet and the museum.

College Residences.- There are six buildings for members of the Faculty on the college grounds. Additional residences are also owned by the college. The practice has been introduced of leasing lots to officers of the college with permission to build thereon. In 1885 the college purchased the Gallagher mansion and grounds. This purchase was peculiarly important as completing the college site. The house has un. dergone extensive alterations and enlargement, and is at present occu-~ pied by the president of the college. In 1883-4, a chaplain's house, a brick building with stone trimmings, was erected on the lot adjoining the chapel on the north. The college is indebted for this beautiful residence to Mrs. Merritt through Mr. W. B. Douglas. The Hale house, first acquired in 1840, the hospitable home of Presidents Hale, Jackson, Stone, Rankine and Hinsdale, and for a time the office of President Potter, is now the residence of a member of the Faculty. The college residence erected under lease by Professor McDaniels, stands on the lake side south of the Hale house. The house occupied by Professor Rose passed into possession of the college November 7, 1891, by purchase. The senior professor occupies the dwelling which adjoins Professor Rose's residence on the north. It was the second building erected on the college grounds, and has within a few years been enlarged and improved.

The Physical Laboratory is in the second story of the south building, which was erected for the special accommodation of the scientific departments of the college. In addition to the general apparatus belonging to the physical department, and especially designed for lecture illustration, there is another collection in the physical labaratory for determination of physical units and constants, comprising in part delicate balances, apparatus for laws of flexure, strength of materials, modulus of elasticity, fluid pressure, specific gravity, and for determinations of' density, mass and volume, and for standardizing thermometers; also for measurement of electrical and magnetical currents by various forms of dynamometers, ammeters, volt meters, tangent galvanometers, etc. The various forms of batteries are also well represented, and also motors and dynamos, with armatures of the ring and drum type. The resources and equipment of the laboratory are quite adequate to prepare the students for the more advanced work of the special scientific schools.

The Chemical Laboratory, which is in the basement of the building that contains the physical laboratory, is fitted up with tables for individual work. Each table is provided with gas and water and all the ordinary reagents. There is also provided for general use all the apparatus necessary for quantitative as well as qualitative work. In connection with the laboratory is a large dark room admirably adapted to photography, for which study special facilities are offered.

The chemical and the physical laboratory are largely indebted for their efficient equipment to the liberality of the late William Constable Pierrepont, of Pierrepont Manor.

The large observatory is furnished with the following instruments:

An equatorial telescope, ten feet focal length and nearly nine inches aperture. It is driven by clockwork, and furnished with spectroscopic attachment.

A transit instrument, with electro- chronographic register.

A sidereal clock; a mean-time chrononieter and a repeating circle, several sextants, and artificial horizon.

The equatorial telescope was procured from funds contributed for the purpose mainly by Mrs. Dean Richmond and the late Samuel G. Cornell, of Buffalo. The sidereal clock was the gift of the late Albert Gallatin Heminway, of Palmyra, a graduate of the college in the class of 1843.

Students in practical astronomy receive instruction in the use of the instruments and in actual observation, and to facilitate this a small observatory has been erected near the college buildings. It contains an equatorial telescope of five inches aperture, furnished with three micrometers; one spider line and double-image (rock crystal), and a solar prism; and spectroscope, all driven by clock- work, as is also the A. R. circle.

The Geological and Mineralogical Cabinet embraces an extensive and valuable collection of minerals, including duplicates of the New York State Geological Survey, also a paleontological collection amply sufficient for the purpose of instruction, with a set of the well known Ward casts of celebrated fossils. These collections in general geology, mineralogy, paleontology and conchology are displayed in the fourth story of the Museum Hall, an open room eighty-eight feet by twenty-seven, with a side extension twenty- two feet by fourteen, and are sufficiently extensive to fill the entire room. A beginning has also been made towards a museum of natural history and antiquities. Gifts to the museum or any of the cabinets will be welcome and will be suitably acknowledged and cared for. For the Ward casts and valuable additions to the geological and mineralogical cabinet, the college is indebted to Mr. William B. Douglas, who added to these gifts a sum of money to be expended in the purchase of illustrative scientific works. The college js further indebted to Mr. Douglas for providing during the past year the much needed addition of cases for the museum.

The Botanical Cabinet is also in Alumni Hall. It consists chiefly Of an herbarium of about five thousand species, late the property of the Rev. H. M. Denslow, of Seneca Falls. The herbarium contains many species collected by the late owner in Connecticut, Vermont and Michigan, also many from the collections of Curtis, Canby, Jones and Rusby in the South and West, besides many from the West Indies, England, Germany and France. It is particularly rich in certain orders, as the Filices, Orchidace, Boraginace and Rosacea, which have been made the subject of special study. The specimens are all mounted on good white paper, and arranged in genus covers, with full labels within and without. The whole collection is arranged systematically in special cases, according to the "Genera Plantarum" of Hooker and Bentham. The provision for illustration and demonstration in the department of botanical instruction includes also a full series of the admirable botanical charts of Professor Denslow.

The Library contains over twenty-nine thousand volumes and three thousand pamphlets, including one thousand three hundred and fifty-four volumes on deposit. Its characteristic excellence is the extent to which in the various departments of instruction in the college it is supplied with the standard works and those which represent the latest and best thought in the several departments. in recent years the library has grown steadily and with relative rapidity. Since November 19, 1885 -the date of the fire which destroyed the building in which the library was then quartered, and from which it was soon to be removed to the present fire-proof building-there have been added by gift and by purchase over fifteen thousand volumes, a large portion of the increase being by purchase.

The scholarships and prizes offered to the students of the college represent a capital sum of $80,000. Three prize scholarships, given by the college itself~ are assigned yearly by competition and are of the annual value of two hundred and eighty, one hundred and seventy-five and one hundred and fifty dollars respectively. Besides these, there are the Ayrault scholarships, representing $54,000, the Henry Laight and John Watts scholarships, representing $2,000, the Pierrepont scholarships, representing $6,000, and the Alanson Sutherland prize scholarships, representing $2,000. The latest addition to the number of scholarships is one of $5,000, established by Mrs. Demorest, of Buffalo. The prizes are those established respectively by the late Horace White, of Syracuse, by the children of the late Augusta H. Cobb, and by the Rev. Walter Thompson, of Garrison's.

Succession of Presidents-Jasper Adams, 1826-28; Benjamin Sharp Mason, S.T.D., 1830-35; Benjamin Hale, S.T.D., 1836-58; Abner Jackson, S.T.D , LL.D., 1858-67; Jacob Kent Stone, S.T.D., 1868-69; James Rankine, S.T.D., 1869-71; Maunsell Van Rensselaer, S.T.D., LL.D., 1871-76; William Stevens Perry, S.T.D., 1876; Robert Graham Hinsdale, S.T.D., 1876-83; Eliphalet Nott Potter, S.T.D., LL.D., 1884.

Presidents Pro Tempore-Daniel McDonald, S.T.D., 1825-26; William Dexter Wilson, S.T.D., LL.D., L.H.D., 1867-68; Hamilton Lanphere Smith, M.A., LL.D., 1883-84.
Trustees, classified with the dates of their election:
The Rt. Rev. The Bishop of Western New York, ax officio.
The Rev. The President of the college, ax officio.


The Hon. James C. Smith, LL.D.,




The Rev. W. W. Battershall, D.D.,




The Hon. Sterling G. Hadley,




William J. Ashley, A.M.,




The Rev. John Brainard, D.D.,




The Rev. H. R. Lockwood, S.T.D.,




The Hon. James M. Smith, LL.D.,




The Hon. S. H. Hammond, D.C.L.,




P. N. Nicholas, A.M.,




William B. Douglas, esq.,




William H. Walker, esq.,




William H. De Lancey, A.M.,

New York,



The Rev. Morgan Dix, S.T.D., D.C.L.,

New York,



Thomas McBlain, esq.,




Arthur P. Rose, A.M.,




The Rev. Lewis Halsey, D.D.,




Douglas Merritt, esq.,




Alexander L. Chew, esq.,




Arthur G. Yates, esq.,




John McDonald, A.M.,

New York,


Douglas Merritt, esq., Rhinebeck, chairman; P. N. Nicholas, A. M., Geneva, secretary, bursar and treasurer.

Geneva Medical college.- In 1834 an act of the Legislature authorized a medical department in the college, and in 1836 the middle college building was erected for the use of the medical faculty. In 1841 a new medical building was erected on the east side of Main street, and the middle building was thereupon devoted to the use of the literary department. The State contributed $15,000 towards the fund for the erection of the new medical building. The medical department of Hobart College was discontinued in 1872, and the building itself destroyed by fire in 1877. Its period of greatest prosperity was from 1840 to 1850; its total number of graduates, six hundred and thirty-two.

The De Lancey Divinity School.- In the year 1861 Bishop De Lancey called James Rankine to Geneva to assume charge and direction of a theological and training school which the bishop was then about to establish, and which was then to be known as the "Diocesan Training School of Western New York." However, in 1865 Bishop De Lancey died, and in honor of his splendid life and services, the name of this institution was changed to "The De Lancey Divinity School."

The confidence in Dr. Rankine which was shown by the bishop in calling him to the charge of this school was most worthily bestowed, for since its inception in 1861, there has been no change nor desire for change in its principalship. This silent though thorough institution attracts but little attention in the village, and only for the grand results here achieved, we would hardly know of its existence. Briefly stated, the object of the De Lancey Divinity School is to prepare for the sacred ministry and church work such persons as from age and peculiar circumstances cannot attend the general theological seminaries.

In 1886 relations were established with Hobart College by which the use of the facilities of the college, including the chapel and the library, and instruction from members of the College Faculty were secured to students connected with the Divinity School.

*1 From the College Catalogue by permission.
*2 There are two members ex officio; the president of the College and the bishop of that diocese of the Protestant Episcopal Church which includes the college site.

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