Council of Independent Colleges Historic Campus Architecture Project


Frary Dining Hall

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Institution Name: Pomona College
Original/Historic Place Name: Lucien Frary Refectory
Location on Campus: College Way
Date(s) of Construction:
1928-1930original construction Spaulding, Sumner
Designer: Sumner Spaulding
Type of Place: Individual building
Style: Beaux-Arts classicism, Mission/Mission revival (Glossary)
Significance: architecture, culture, engineering, history
Narrative: see below
References: see below
Foundation: reinforced concrete on Myron Hunt's 'Little Bridges' model
Walls: reinforced concrete and wood frame
Roof: red tile, Mediterranean Spanish-Italian tradition of the Southwest and Southern California
ca. 1928residence hall (mens)
ca. 1928-present (2006)dining hall

Lucien H. Frary (Congregational Pastor and Trustee, 1892-1903) Dining Hall was part of architect Sumner Spaulding's expansion of the men's residential dormitory complex on north campus, 1928-1930. Inspired by Myron Hunt's quadrangle-courtyard campus plan of 1908-1914, Frary Dining Hall represented the continued development of a residential campus organized by gender, north (male) and south (female).

Myron Hunt's Spanish Classical Revival Smiley Hall (1908), on the north side of Marston Quad, was the first dedicated men's dormitory. Sumner Spaulding's Eli P. Clark (named for a Trustee, 1909-1931) dormitory complex and Frary Hall followed and expanded Pomona College to the north of Sixth Street, just before the Stock Market Crash at the end of the "Roaring '20s" and the beginning of the Great Depression. This original Clark-Frary Quadrangle model (1928-1930) reproduced Myron Hunt's Marston Quad, with a central garden axis through a Roman triumphal arch (never executed) to a bell tower (modeled after those at the Church of San Marco in Venice and at Stanford University and executed later in a different Spanish terracotta style with Smith Tower to south side), leading to Frary Hall (north campus, men's refectory) and an L-shaped green to the north (now called "Walker Beach" and enclosing free-speech "Walker Wall").

Frary Hall can be likened to a chapel, surrounded by public and private, open and closed courtyards on an axial plan. A combination of Beaux Art, medieval monastic, and Spanish Mission Revival Style architecture, it continues Myron Hunt's Spanish Mission Revival in southern California and translates the collective grid module of Benedictine and Cistercian medieval monasteries (e.g., Cluny and Fontenay) and Franciscan Missions (e.g., San Gabriel Mission, 1770-1810, fifteen miles from Claremont) to the definition of a co-educational liberal arts college in the early twentieth century. The layout of the building is parallel to the San Gabriel Mountains, melding a scenic natural background with modern education.

The entrance to Frary Dining Hall consists of austere Doric temple columns at the end (the "head") of the quad axis, the central sight line of the Clark dormitory courtyard complex. Painted white concrete surfaces speak of Franciscan poverty, simplicity, and purity. English and American Colonial grass lawns and a Renaissance grid plan give order to the appropriated and redefined Spanish tradition. The austerity of the axial plan and the white textured concrete walls, collective dormitories, intimate courtyards, and soaring refectory hall differ distinctly from the more "domestic" and private "house" proportions on south campus (e.g., Harwood Court and Seeley-Mudd, etc.), which were constructed originally for women. Frary, built by the Stover Brothers contractors, represents an innovative construction process in which reinforced concrete is poured on site into wood forms, melding nature with modernity and continuing the pioneering building technology of Myron Hunt's "Little Bridges" on Marston Quadrangle (1915-16).

José Clemente Orozco's "Prometheus" fresco of 1930, the first Mexican mural in the United States, lies on the north wall of Frary. Prometheus, the male stealer of fire from the gods, hovers in agonistic nudity (censored in the vital parts) above the diners in the hall: he is the giver of fire, food and artifacts to humans, independent (and thus morally responsible) from the Olympian heights. Because Frary was originally a men's refectory where women had to be invited for dinner, the mural originally existed as a visual representation of the male students' residential space as distinct from the women's. Today, Prometheus is not only a major monument to the College but also to the history of Mexican mural painting in the United States. Another significant fresco is the black and white mural of "Genesis" (with "Noah Building the Ark") of 1960 on the inside entrance arch to Frary, painted by Italian-American (Neapolitan immigrant and UC Santa Barbara studio faculty) artist Rico Lebrun.

Residential hall complexes became co-educational in the 1960s, redefining the gendered disciplinary spaces of Myron Hunt's campus plan of 1908-1914. Now predominantly first and second year students live on south campus (the original women's residential halls), and third and fourth year students live on north campus, making the sequence of Pomona College residential life a transition from home-like spaces to independent communal living. Pomona College student life is based on the residential hall, the foundation of social and intellectual life, underlying the curriculum and faculty. This makes the Office of the Dean of Students and the Residential Advisers (RAs) particularly important in the social and architectural environs of Pomona College. The distinctively American ideal of the residential college as a garden, ordered space, quadrangle, and courtyard system, with common halls and lounges allotted to dormitory room spaces, continues to define the public to private character of the campus.


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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.

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Wright, Judy. Claremont: A Pictorial History. Claremont, CA: Claremont Historic Resources Center, Claremont, CA, 1980.


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