Council of Independent Colleges Historic Campus Architecture Project

 

 
Belle Wilber Thorne Hall

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Institution Name: Occidental College
Original/Historic Place Name: Belle Wilber Thorne Hall
Location on Campus: 1600 Campus Rd.
Date(s) of Construction:
1937-1938original construction Hunt, Myron
Designer: Myron Hunt
Type of Place: Individual building
Style: Beaux-Arts classicism, Other (Glossary)
Significance: architecture
Narrative: see below
References: see below
Materials:
Foundation: concrete
Walls: concrete, stucco
Roof: tile
 
Function:
ca. 1938-present (2006)auditorium
 

Narrative:
Thorne Hall is Hunt's last campus building. The design is the most restrained and purely classical of all the buildings and shares elements with Hunt's unrealized plan for a central administration building (1909) in the center of campus. The exterior is largely unadorned, but a large grand portico above the steps serves as a prominent eastern terminus of the main east-west arm of the cross-axial campus plan.

Thorne Hall was constructed in 1937 and was the final building designed by Myron Hunt for the campus before his retirement from the firm of Hunt and Chambers. With Thorne's design, Hunt returned to a more classically influenced style befitting of its location and purpose as a cultural and performing arts center. The imposing main façade of the building, with a large colonnade enclosing a vestibule, alludes to Hunt's unrealized design for the main administration building and his more formal early designs as seen in Fowler and Johnson Halls. However, while retaining the proportions of these buildings, all detail has been stripped away, leaving an austerely classical building which merges with the overall style of the campus and setting Thorne apart as the most modern Hunt-designed buildings on campus. The interior design features extensive use of wood in its wall paneling and coved ceiling, producing a richly textured space.

The politics behind the building's construction and dedication are said to have provided the inspiration for Aldous Huxley's novel, After Many a Summer Dies the Swan.

With seating for over 900 and excellent acoustics, the building provided an important venue for musical and theatrical performance in the Los Angeles community. By supporting its construction, Occidental was clearly trying to connect itself with the burgeoning cosmopolitan city of Los Angeles by supporting a performing arts space able to rival those of other cities. The theater continues to host many concerts and performances and remains one of the few venues of its size in the Los Angeles area.
 

References:

Cleland, Robert Glass. The History of Occidental College, 1887-1937. Los Angeles: Ward Ritchie Press, 1937.

Historic Photographs of the Occidental College Campus. Special Collections, Mary Norton Clapp Library, Occidental College, Los Angeles, CA.

Myron Hunt Occidental College Collections. Correspondence, architectural drawings, plans, and contracts. Collections of Occidental College. Special Collections, Mary Norton Clapp Library, Occidental College, Los Angeles, CA.

"The Myron Hunt, Occidental College, Image Collection: Architectural Drawings, Plans, and Historic Photographs of the Myron Hunt Designed Campus of Occidental College." Online (2006). Occidental College, Los Angeles, CA. http://winterandhuntcollection.oxy.edu .

Rolle, Andrew F. Occidental College: a Centennial History, 1887-1987. Los Angeles: Occidental College, 1986.

Winter, Robert. Myron Hunt at Occidental College. Los Angeles: Occidental College, 1986.

 

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Last update: November 2006