English Paneling

English Panelling

A wealthy English family, centuries ago, dined in a carved and paneled oak room, warmed by a chimney decorated with carved vine leaves and grapes. Today much of the room remains — not in Essex County, England, but in Alfred, NY. The dining room’s paneling now lines the walls of the Herrick Memorial Library conference room.

Mr. and Mrs. Philip d’Huc Dressler purchased the paneling at an auction house selling the William Randolph Hearst collection in 1926 for a home they intended to build. The house was never built and when they learned the University was planning an addition to Herrick Library in the late 1970s, they donated the 16th-century paneling.

The paneling was referred to in 17th-century publications of the English Royal Commission on Ancient Monuments. Each of the oak panels is carved with decorative molding around its perimeter. Even more ornamental is the chimney-piece, divided into sections by four columns – reminiscent of Greek architecture -  and decorated with cherubs’ heads, vine leaves and grapes.

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Erin Go Bragh

StPat items

Thousands of alumni have fond memories of St. Patrick’s Day at Alfred University. What began in 1933 as a way to promote the ceramic engineering program quickly grew into a university-wide festival and celebration: parades with elaborate floats, unique ceramic mementos, beard growing contests, dances in Davis Gym, and the crowning of queens. Cancelled classes, weeks of planning, cold and snowy weather, evenings spent making tissue paper flowers, and plenty of laughter all contributed to the event enjoyed by students for over fifty years. The University Archives has a collection of memorabilia, photos and film footage to document this time-honored tradition.

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Mark Twain Engraving

Mark Twain Engraving

The Howells-Frechette Collection at Alfred University is an extensive collection of letters and memorabilia from aremarkable family. The material details the social, literary, artistic, and political life in the 19th and early 20th centuries in the United States and Canada as perceived through the eyes of William Cooper Howells (1807-1894) and his children and grandchildren, among whom where a U.S consul, a journalist, a translator/poet/artist, a newspaper editor, a novelist/critic, and a portrait painter.

William C. Howells’ son, William Dean Howells, a literary giant (author, editor, lecturer, critic) of his day, was primarily responsible for bringing Henry James into the forefront of American attention. He was also a close friend of Mark Twain. One item in the collection, shown above, is a mounted and boxed copper plate engraving made by Twain as a birthday gift to Howells in 1902. On the plate Twain notes “I cannot make a good mouth, therefore leave it out. There is enough without anyway. Done with the best ink. M.T.”

Family documents, scrapbooks, diaries, lectures, etc. augment the 7000 letters exchanged not only among the family members but also with such luminaries as Twain, Hamlin Garland, James Garfield and other literary and political figures. Researchers interested in the flavor of American/Canadian life, the Northwest Mounted Police in Alberta, Ottawa’s Department of Mines and Resources, and southern Africa in the 1870s will also find material of interest.

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Davis Gym

DavisGym,late1920s,McFall CollectionDavis Gym-March 3, 1961

Davis Gym, a long-time fixture on the Alfred University campus, will shortly be just a memory for thousands of alumni who have fond recollections of events, shows, athletic contests, etc. that took place within its walls. The photo above on the left shows the gym in the mid-1920s, shortly after it was built (without the front addition). The photo on the right is from the early 1960s. Below is a time table outlining important events in the building’s history:

1925—Indoor cinder track with basketball court in center was erected

1926—First public event held in gym Jan. 23, 1926 when Alfred U. defeated Rochester Mechanics 44-31, followed by a wrestling match between a couple of young men, and relay races on the cinder track. The name “Davis Gym” was given to carry out a suggestion made by NYS Senator Leonard W. Gibbs in 1915 when a fund was started by alumni to build a gym as a memorial to President Boothe C. Davis.

1928—Two-story front installed; tan bark track installed, expanding initial cinder track into basement of the two-story structure; new basketball court installed; pole vault/high jump is installed in north end

1929—“Track and Field House” dedicated Feb. 8, 1929. President Davis, in outlining the history of Alfred’s athletic equipment during the dedication exercises, said “The Trustees have not sanctioned the use of the name ‘Davis Track House’ for this building. I personally have no objection to this building carrying my name. Indeed I would feel complimented to have it so named by the students and the Trustees. But there are members of the Board of Trustees who feel that some other type of college building which they hope to erect later will be a more appropriate memorial to the President…It is officially the Track House.”

1948—Gymnasium rehabilitated: included installation of a new gym floor, new athletic track, and sound proofing

1956—Second story built over the east wing that formerly housed heating equipment; providing ladies’ restroom, coaches’ offices, shower room for officials, storage rooms and wrestling room

1961—Addition to North side rebuilt and enlarged during the summer

1978–Davis Gym renovated with new lighting, insulation in ceiling, windows removed, new exterior insulated wall added along with four emergency exits

2008–Plans had been made to construct the new ceramic art museum on the site of Davis Gym. After a resolution by the Student Senate asking that it not be torn down until an alternate space was constructed, the University trustees agree to hold off on tearing it down until such a space is created

Spring 2014 – New recreational center at McLane Center opens; Davis Gym demolished to make room for ceramic art museum



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The Umbrella Tree

Camperdown Elm May 2011

The “Umbrella Tree” is a beloved landmark on the Alfred University campus. Frequently it’s a temporary home to students nestled in its branches or artwork hanging from its limbs. Found in front of the Powell Campus Center it was planted circa 1905. Originally it sat in front of Kenyon Memorial Hall, the first building on this site. It once had a “twin” located just a few yards away that was removed in 1974 due to ill health. A third one was once located next to the School of Theology building (The Gothic), currently the site of Herrick Memorial Library.

While many on campus refer to it as the Umbrella Tree, its true identity is a Camperdown Elm or a Weeping Elm. The “Earl of Camperdown”, in Dundee Scotland, noticed in 1840 a branch growing on the floor of his elm forest. He grafted it to a scotch elm tree and it took hold producing the first Camperdown Elm. The scotch elm is the only root mass that the Camperdown will grow on. As a mutant it cannot self reproduce. Every Camperdown Elm tree in the world is a part of the original that must be grafted to a scotch elm tree to get started. When the graft starts to grow, the scotch elm branches are cut off leaving only the Camperdown Elm. This magnificent tree depends on humankind to keep it alive as a species.

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The Allen Family

Allen oil painting, Abigail & Alfred Allen oil painting, girls

Alfred University often extols Abigail and Jonathan Allen’s early dedication to the institution and to their stances on equality for all. But not often is their more private family life brought to light. Not only were they revered public figures, they were also adoring parents to three children (a fourth one died at age 2).

The above oil paintings depict Abigail with their son Alfred (he later lived in Hollywood and was an early actor in American silent films). Many think the child is female based on the clothing but it was typical for young males to wear dresses in their early years. The second oil painting shows Alfred’s older sisters Evangel and May. The paintings are rich in detail and help create a fuller picture of two people so important to the history of Alfred University.

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Peruvian Pots


Peruvian Pots

These pots were donated to the University by Edna Jane Wyeth, Class of 1946. She was an intrepid traveler and was part of an excavation team in 1959 that uncovered these relics from the coastal area near Lima, Peru. They are presumed to be from the Chancay culture, dating to 1000 A.D.

The pots are on permanent display on the main floor of Herrick Memorial Library, in a display case also donated by Edna Jane Wyeth.

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Carnegie Library

Carnegie Library,interior Carnegie desk, chair, plant stand

Today’s Carnegie Hall (the University’s administration building) may look mostly the same on the outside as it did when it opened in 1913, but it certainly looks much different on the inside! The Archives is fortunate to possess the original oak library circulation desk, chair, and plant stand (as well as few of the library tables). The photo on the left shows librarian Clarence Mitchell in 1922 sitting at the desk.

Alfred University’s Carnegie Library was built by Andrew Carnegie. While Carnegie mostly constructed public libraries, he did fund a number of academic ones as well, something many people are not aware of. The University constructed a new library (Herrick Library) in 1957.

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Lil’ Alf

LilAlf LilAlf2

In 1940, James Lippke (AU 1943) and Walter “Lucky” Lawrence (AU 1947) created
a little knight caricature called “Lil’ Alf” which became an unofficial symbol of Alfred University. Lippke and Lawrence were both brothers at the Kappa Psi Upsilon fraternity and had the responsibility of preparing signs for the football games which hung each Saturday at the foot of the hill by the Kappa Psi house.

“It occurred to them [Lippke and Lawrence] that a central symbol for Alfred University was needed to lend continuity to successive signs. This impetus prompted them to create the ‘Lil Alf’ caricature which first appeared in the fall of 1940. The continued use of ‘Lil Alf’ by the fraternity led to the general acceptance of the caricature as a symbol of Alfred University. In this capacity he has been sculptured in ice and snow, referred to on radio and television and has appeared as the central theme for campus decoration.” (Fiat Lux, January 12, 1960, p.2)

In 1949, Lil’ Alf was re-sketched (photo on right) by George Tappan (AU 1950), also a Kappa Psi Upsilon brother. This iteration was used in various forms throughout the next four decades until being essentially phased out by the University in the late 1990s.

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Ida Kenyon

Kenyon chair Kenyon, Ida Sallan

This rocking chair once belonged to Ida Sallan Kenyon.. “Frau” Kenyon, as she was known, was born in Prussia in 1830. At an early age she lost her parents and siblings and moved in with her aunt. Due to political upheaval in Prussia, they emigrated to Staten Island in 1852, later moving to Almond, NY. After attending the Alfred Academy she taught as a school teacher for many years, eventually marrying the university’s first president, William Kenyon. She then became a well-loved professor of Modern Languages and Literature at Alfred. Her obituary described her as ” a woman of unique personality: strong, scholarly, energetic, and deeply spiritual.” She also planted many flowers around campus, some of which still grow today around the Steinheim and behind the carillon.

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