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.
If you’re ever traveling along Lake Erie, you might be interested in cruising through Silver Creek, NY to check out Alfred Heights. Developed in 1958 by Dr. Cewsme Barresi, Class of 1921, the development literally has Alfred written all over it! He planned the street in the shape of the letter “A” for Alfred (rotate the above street view photo 90 degrees to see it). The main street into the development is Alfred Drive, intersected by Drake Avenue (named for AU president M. Ellis Drake). The top street is Alpine, a nod to Barresi’s fraternity (Klan Alpine) while a student at the University. The fourth street, Crandall, could very well also be an Alfred moniker given the extensive Crandall history with the town, but it’s actually named for a former mayor of Silver Creek, Herbert Crandall.
And if you think the name Barresi seems somehow familiar, it’s because one of the residence halls on campus is named after the man who was a long supporter of the University through his financial gifts and time spent as a trustee.
“At Alfred’s birth , the universe was a far different place. It was centered on the Solar System and its then-seven planets, and the surrounding galaxies of stars. The first accurate measurement of a stellar distance had not even been made when Prof. William A. Rogers of Alfred Center contracted in 1863 with Henry Fitz, an instrument maker located in New York City, to buy a telescope of high quality.”
So starts an essay on the history of the observatory by John Stull, AU Class of 1952, beloved physics professor, and namesake to today’s Stull Observatory. Much credit to both Rogers and Stull for their dedication in each lovingly supporting observatories at Alfred University.
This month the observatory is celebrating its 150th anniversary, with much improved equipment and understanding of the universe. But still using that original high quality Fitz telescope!
Another piece from the original Rogers Observatory (located about where Susan Howell Hall is today) is pictured above: a transit instrument. Now on display in Herrick Library, the instrument was originally used to measure the position of the stars.
The Steinheim. “Stone Home.” An iconic building on the Alfred University campus. It appears on various mementos created over the years, collected by alumni; eventually they make their way to the University Archives. This plate is one of a series featuring various University buildings.
Construction on the Steinheim began in 1875; the original intent was a house for Ida Sallan Kenyon, widow of President William Kenyon. She got as far as the basement but sold the project to then-president Jonathan Allen. He and his wife, Abigail, had traveled in Europe and were fascinated by German castles along the Rhine. He had no architectural plans or designs, and never considered the building to be done. His death in 1892 effectively meant the end of construction.
Jonathan and Abigail used the building to house their vast natural history collections. It was never used for a home. The museum’s collections expanded until it was an eclectic showcase. Today, the building houses the Career Development Center which retains the feel and character of history in its restoration, interior wood work and design, and display of historic objects.
The Great Depression of the 1930s certainly created financial strain for many universities and colleges but was also responsible for a development in higher education called the Emergency Collegiate Centers. Teachers across the country were out of work and students could not afford leaving home to study on a college campus. The federal government subsidized the development of these emergency centers, providing free tuition. Alfred University’s first center was established in Bath, NY. In the third year of the program, 1935-36, Alfred University supervised six such schools in Bath, Cattaraugus, Dunkirk, Jamestown, Lockport, and Medina.
As J.N.Norwood stated in his book Fiat Lux: The Story of Alfred University “Thirty-seven teachers sat behind the desks instructing 414 students. A sort of ‘campus’ life developed at each center, and recreational programs were evolved. Faculty groups visited the Alfred campus to consult with faculty members whose work the visitors paralleled. After their second year emergency center students began transferring to Alfred and other colleges.”
One such student enrolled at the Jamestown school and participated in the basketball program. His varsity letter is pictured above. He transferred to the Alfred University campus but had his education interrupted by WWII. He returned to graduate with a degree in ceramic engineering in 1948.
When the centers lost their federal funding in 1937, the communities of Jamestown and Dunkirk “elected to continue experimentally on a tuition basis.” While Dunkirk closed mid-year, the Jamestown center continued as the Alfred University Extension (AUE). It was successful enough that in 1950 it became the Jamestown Community College and officially separated from the University.
Long before email and cellphones, people were able to communicate wirelessly over long distances. This radiotelegram was sent April 1, 1929 to Evelyn Openhym, AU1923, by her husband George. Evelyn was on the Cunard Line steamship, Berengaria. The message says “All fine today love.”
Interesting parts of the “radiogram” say that “this vessel is in telegraphic communication with all parts of the world throughout the voyage” and that a “Remington typewriter was used for typing this message.”
“With this issue our new paper makes its first appearance. It is a new feature in Alfred life, but we sincerely believe that the advent of this paper is a mark of progress, a step in the right direction. Our University has for some time since felt the need of a real live student publication, to chronicle, pleasantly, from week to week, the events of interest to the student body, the alumni and our friends at large.”
And so began the Fiat Lux newspaper, first published on October 21, 1913; a publication that has endured for a century.
The campus certainly had publications prior to 1913 but they were not the typical news publications nor did they last very long. The first known student publication, The Literary Star, appeared on Oct. 27, 1855, almost 58 years to the day before the appearance of the Fiat Lux. Handwritten and not able to easily be mass produced, it only lasted a short while. Other publications came and went until students in 1898 felt they needed an outlet to primarily publish literary writings and started the Alfred University Monthly. It was in this journal in early 1913 that the first reports are found showing desire for an actual weekly student newspaper.
An editorial in the May 1913 issue argued for something different: “There is a place in Alfred University for a fortnightly newspaper. This University has sufficient social enterprises to hold a steady amount of space if properly written up and reported…. The result of the hustling of one man, our Junior Campus Reporter for the ‘Sun,’ fills considerable space in the local paper. The proper place for such material is in a college newspaper that is edited by students.”
Enough minds were changed that the following issue (June, 1913) proclaimed “THERE WILL BE IN OUR UNIVERSITY NEXT YEAR A WEEKLY NEWSPAPER.” True to their word, following the trend at many other colleges, a weekly newspaper appeared in the fall, spearheaded by Robert D. Garwood , the first editor-in-chief. The first issue, 8 pages in length, was called “The Alfred Weekly” and a contest was held for the honor of naming the new publication. The next issue, distributed on Oct. 28, 1913, announced “Our paper has a name.… The name Fiat Lux has been chosen as being the most distinctive, the most typically ‘Alfred.’” It was aptly named; the Latin phrase was chosen as the University’s motto in 1857 when the institution transitioned from the Alfred Academy to a full-fledged University. Meaning “Let There Be Light” it had long been a favorite creed of Jonathan Allen, the University’s second president and early supporter of equal education for all.
The University Archives has made the entire run of the Fiat Lux available in digital form and freely accessible online in the University’s digital repository. Feel free to explore this priceless chronicler of University history under the “Campus Publications” collection. May it continue strong for another 100 years!
How fun, we have our own alphabet! Actually, quite a bit of the University’s history can be discovered through the following poem, written by student Gertrude Burdick and published in The Alfred Monthly in October, 1898.
A is for Alfred, the seat of a college
famed far and wide for the depth of its knowledge.
B is for Brick, where its students are boarded,
and all the comforts of home are afforded.
C is for Chapel, the first thing each morning,
where advice is bestowed, also much needed warning.
D is for Down-Town, a source of attraction
To any who suffer from mental inaction.
E’s for Eleven, the great and the glorious,
long haired and strong limbed, o’er all victorious.
F is for Faculty, grim, gray and awful
to him who’s committed an act that’s unlawful.
G is for Gothic and Greek, which is taught there,
to help fill the empty young heads that are brought there.
H is for Hard old translations that vex us,
And I is for Irregular verbs that perplex us.
J is for Junior – what shall we do with ‘em?
Give them Seniors’ old shoes when they’re through with ‘em.
K is Keep out of the Sophomores’ business,
And pay no heed to young hundred-two’s dizziness.
L is for Lover’s Lane, green and mysterious,
where we may flee from the problems that weary us.
M is for Midnight oil, burned by the capful –
not to mention the matches scratched up by the handful.
And N is for the poor Nervous system that’s shattered
in an effort to gather some thoughts widely scattered,
to produce an Oration that’s fit for Lyceum,
on all sorts of smart things and how we may be ‘em.
P is for Picnics, Pickles and Pleasures,
and poor lemonade poured in plentiful measures.
Q is for Questions obtuse, depth revealing,
discussed by the Oros in mad bursts of feeling.
R is for Regents, and there’s no denying,
of all fiery trials, this is the most trying.
S is for Seniors and Sheepskins and Sages,
and Schoolbooks shut up, with no more turned down pages.
T is Tuition, said sadly each quarter,
by the poor man who sends here his son or his daughter.
U is for Up on Pine Hill for a ramble,
And V is for the View that rewards the hard scramble.
W stands for the Winner of prizes,
who bears off the palm at the field exercises.
X is for Xenophon, painful to master,
where more than one student has come to disaster.
Y is the Yell, void of sense, blood congealing,
yet the best method known of expressing deep feeling.
And Z is for — well, for the twenty-sixth letter,
and the end of a ditty that might have been better.
Here’s a few more items from bygone days: salt cellars. Today we’re used to reaching for the salt shaker, knowing that salt is cheap and readily available. The history of salt can be an interesting way to learn about our past.
· These small dishes, known as “salt cellars” were used to hold salt at the table for an individual. Salt was a precious, and necessary, commodity. Salt cellars were used until the early 1900s, when salt was more refined and more readily available. These dishes are now collectors’ items; the ones shown in the photo were once part of the Steinheim Museum at Alfred University.
- How valuable is salt? (sunderv7.wordpress.com)
This hand-tooled saddle belonged to Boothe Colwell Davis, fourth president of Alfred University (1895-1933). It was given to him by his father, probably in 1884. He used it to travel to Alfred from his home in West Virginia when he came as a 22-year-old student to attend classes in 1885. He then used it during his years at the Yale Divinity School and when he later returned to Alfred in 1895 as the University president and pastor of the Seventh Day Baptist Church in Alfred. It was donated to the University by the family.
It was under President Davis that the New York State College of Ceramics and the New York State School of Agriculture were opened at Alfred University. He was also responsible for convincing Andrew Carnegie to fund the construction of an academic library building for the University (it opened in 1913 and is today used for the University’s administrative offices).