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Founded by Congregationalists in 1887, Pomona College originally occupied a Victorian hotel built by the Santa Fe Railroad-Pacific Land Improvement Company on the site of the current Marston Quadrangle. The town of Claremont was plotted the same year (also by the Santa Fe Railroad) as part of the integration of California into the United States from statehood in 1850 through the early 20th century.
Marston Quad, conceived in 1908 and finished by 1923, is modeled after Thomas Jefferson's University of Virginia (1817-1826) and conforms to the idea of a central Commons or Academic Village. It represents the Enlightenment ideal of a green space (a "campus" field), translated to the semi-arid climate and San Gabriel Native American/Spanish-Mexican/Anglo-American cultural context of southern California. Architect Myron Hunt's Pomona College Plan of 1908-1914 changed the Victorian style of the original hotel to a college campus of largely Spanish Mission Revival style buildings, a significant example of "regionalism" before and after World War I. Landscape architect Ralph Cornell created a three-dimensional Beaux-Arts Picturesque space (with curved entry paths at the corners) with mottled sycamores and California live oaks and tall pines, thereby replacing the existing chaparral and sagebrush with lush greenery and taking advantage of the dramatic ("sublime") San Gabriel Mountains rising to 10,068 ft. as a backdrop. Pomona College's first President, Cyrus Baldwin, envisioned the school as "the college in a garden," a "New-England Style" liberal arts college in the Jeffersonian tradition of "the Academic Grove" and "the Garden of Eden" but adapted to southern California.
The quadrangle initially reoriented a Victorian linear campus plan along Warren (now College) Avenue, north-south, into a Beaux-Arts Spanish Mission Revival Quadrangle System, east-west. Expansive green space (a commons) lay between north campus (sciences, original men's residence halls) and south campus (arts, original women's residences). In addition to the academic and administrative functions of campus buildings, the campus was host to ceremonial functions such as convocations and graduations, as well as picnics and recreational gatherings. Early graduations were held in Myron Hunt's open Greek Theatre ("the Wash") in picturesque Blanchard Park, a densely wooded ramble in the southeast corner of the campus grid.
The student body of Pomona College has always been diverse. Early compulsory chapel in Holmes Hall and missionary work to China during the early twentieth century brought some Chinese and Asian-American students from Los Angeles and San Francisco to the College. The school's first African-American student was in the Pomona class of 1906, and a few Latino students are also shown in early Metate yearbooks (see Honnold Library Special Collections).
The college gradually became secularized in the 1920s and 1930s, and residence halls became co-educational in 1960. First- and second-year students now reside mostly on south campus, third and fourth on north campus. After WWII, efforts to increase the diversity and richness of student life have changed the social interactions of students and campus spaces. Robert Stern's Smith Campus Center now houses student organizations, residential life programs, interdisciplinary departments, and classrooms.
Ralph Cornell's plants grew up, and buildings were added in diverse contemporary styles to Myron Hunt's original grid-quadrangle plan. Cornell's landscape plan of 1919-23 for a "college in a garden" was further enriched by Richard Dober's Comprehensive Land Use Plan of 1978.
Today, Marston Quad retains all of its original academic, administrative, recreational, and ceremonial functions. Students can be found lounging with a book on the Quad, throwing a Frisbee, or participating in formal gatherings on central campus. The campus is also home to alumni events (outdoor dinners) and graduations. The campus is frequently used as a set for films or television programs that require an east-coast style college campus.
Belioli, Jay, et al. Myron Hunt, 1868-1952: The Search for a Regional Architecture. Exhibition catalogue. Baxter Art Gallery, California Institute of Technology. Santa Monica, CA: Hennessey & Ingalls, 1984.
Dober, Richard P. Campus Architecture: Building in the Groves of Academe. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1996.
Dober, Richard P. Campus Design. New York: John Wiley, 1992.
Dober, Richard. Comprehensive Land Use Plan for Pomona College. Claremont, CA: Pomona College, 1978.
Gebhard, David, and Robert Winter. Los Angeles: An Architectural Guide. Salt Lake City, UT: Peregrine Smith Books, 1994.
Hunt, Myron, and Elmer Grey, Architects, "Recommendations to the City of Claremont and to the Trustees of Pomona College, relating to the future development of the College Campus." Pomona College Bulletin 5, no. 4. Supplement to November 21, 1908, contains photographs and plans. Claremont, CA: Pomona College, 1908.
Lyon, E. Wilson. The History of Pomona College 1887-1969. Claremont, CA: Pomona College, 1977.
Walking Tour: The Claremont Colleges. Brochure. Claremont Heritage or Special Collections, Honhold Library. Claremont, CA: Claremont Historic Resources Center, 1982.
Wright, Judy. Claremont: A Pictorial History. Claremont, CA: Claremont Historic Resources Center, Claremont, CA, 1980.