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August 24, 2012

Hudson to Cleveland

Universities don’t often pack up and move to another city. But 130 years ago Western Reserve College moved from Hudson to Cleveland. Numerous records in the Archives document the decision to move, raising funds for the land and buildings, planning the new buildings, and, of course, delays. In the next few weeks, our blog will feature a firsthand account of this momentous decision.

02523D1.jpg In 1880 Edward W. Morley was Hurlbut Professor of Natural History and Chemistry at Western Reserve College. He had recently begun the research on oxygen that would make him famous. His significant research career is well-documented elsewhere, so won’t be repeated here. Morley had taught in Hudson for about a decade when discussions about moving to Cleveland began. Because he also taught at the Medical School, then located in Cleveland, he traveled frequently between the two. In letters to his parents he recounts the discussions, decisions, and activities that accomplished that move. We’ve transcribed sections of these letters and will be sharing them over the next few weeks.

Below is the extract from his September 12, 1882 letter describing the beginning of the first academic year in Cleveland.

“College opened last Thursday, as advertised. One recitation is held in an armory, which would accommodate about six hundred; one is held in an old church, not now used as such, but used for some meetings; one is held in the lecture room of another church, and two are held in two rooms belonging to the Young Men’s Christian Association. Prayers are held in the armory. All these buildings are near each other, and we do not lose much or any time in making changes from one room to another. Prayers are at nine o’clock, the first recitation at fifteen minutes past nine, the second at twenty minutes past ten, and the third at twenty-five minutes past eleven. All of the exercises of the college therefore are over by half past twelve.

The number of students is good, and we are going to get along well enough till the buildings are done. I see no reason to suppose that we shall get into the buildings this term. All of our students are quartered where they can be comfortable enough, though at a greater cost than if the dormitory were done. The buildings are very satisfactory, so far; of course there are little things in which our wants have not been understood, which have to be corrected, and sometimes the trouble required is out of all proportion to the work required.

I had three flues for carrying off fumes in chemical experiments. It took a couple of days to get them made. I come back, and find that one is spoiled, one has been altered, and will have to be altered back, and the other is stopped up so that it is doubtful whether it can be cleared without cutting through the wall. Also, where they run into the chimney, joists all run into all of them, so that there is some danger, though slight, of their taking fire.

Today, Mr. Smith, who is hard to satisfy because he has not yet learned that there are any trifles in the world, is in trouble, or rather is troubling me, because he thinks his blackboard is two inches too low. As this involves only the loss of half an ounce of lamp-black needlessly used in blackening the mortar of those two inches, I was inclined to think the matter a trifle, especially as the hight [sic] was agreed to by him at Hudson, and is made just what he agreed to. But I had to agree to go four miles and back to attend to the matter.”

The new buildings to which Morley refers are the classroom and office building, Adelbert Main, and the residence, Adelbert Hall. In coming weeks we’ll share Morley’s account of events that preceded the move.

Posted by jmt3 at August 24, 2012 06:17 PM

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