Out of the attic: Old College

This week’s out of the attic item, courtesy of the University of Delaware Archives, is the oldest known photograph of Old College and the Delaware College campus, now the heart of the University of Delaware. It was “rediscovered” last month in a box of unprocessed photographs in the Office of University Archives and Records Management.

Dating from 1875, the faded sepia toned image shows young men, probably students, standing between two rows of linden trees in front of the steps of Old College.

Old College is the first official UD building, opening in 1834 as the home of Newark College (which would become Delaware College in 1843 and the University of Delaware in 1921). When it opened, the building housed classrooms, meeting rooms for student organizations, the library, an oratory, administrative offices and student housing with dining room and kitchen.

At the time of the photo, Old College was still Delaware College’s only building; enrollment numbered 54; and faculty members totaled eight, two of whom today have campus buildings named in their honor: William H. Purnell, president and professor of mental, moral and political science, and Theodore R. Wolf, professor of chemistry, geology, mineralogy and natural history.

Over the years, the building has undergone several changes. In 1852, a Gothic style cupola was added to the roof over the central portico. That cupola was removed in 1917 during an extensive renovation. Old College was no longer the sole structure on campus, and after the renovation it became the social center and dining hall for Delaware College students (at that time all male), featuring a dining hall, assembly spaces, a student lounge and meeting rooms. It was especially popular for dances in the assembly hall.

In 1918, rooms in Old College were used to house World War I draftees for training.

In the 1940s and 1950s, use of the building declined as the campus social center moved to Memorial Library (now Memorial Hall), with its student snack bar, the Scrounge, in the basement. When the Perkins Student Center opened in 1957, many campus organizations moved their meetings there.

In 1978, Old College underwent extensive renovations to return the space to a classroom building, while honoring its 19th century heritage. Now Old College is home to classrooms, offices, the Old College Gallery and the departments of Art History and Art Conservation.

Out of the Attic is produced in partnership with the Newark Historical Society. The Newark History Museum, located in the old train station under the South College Avenue bridge is open Sundays from 2 to 5 p.m. Admission is free. For more info, call 302-234-4145 or visitwww.newarkdehistoricalsociety.org. Do you have an old photo to share with Newark Post readers? Contact editor Josh Shannon at 443-907-8437 or jshannon@newarkpostonline.com.

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