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Saint Joseph's could either claim to be in the last neighborhood on the western edge of the city or at the very entrance to the prestigious Philadelphia Main Line. The first building on the site, and the University's signature structure to this day, was built in the Collegiate Gothic style. Barbelin Hall was designed by architect Francis Ferdinand Durang (1884-1966), son of Edwin F. Durang, the architect of the Gesu and the college buildings in North Philadelphia. The building, sited on a hill, forms an open quadrangle and features a 165 foot high tower. Barbelin Tower was thought to be the highest point in the city due to its elevation and the height of the structure. Constructed of Wissahickon schist (a local stone) and limestone, the facade features gargoyles, heads of early presidents of the college, and an array of other limestone carvings.
The builder, John McShain, was a former student at St. Joseph's who had learned his trade in his father's construction business. The New Saint Joseph's College was his first major project. After Barbelin Hall, McShain went on to become one of the nation's most successful contractors. Among his most important contracts were the Pentagon, the Jefferson Memorial, the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, and the complete restructuring of the White House during the Truman administration. He came to be known as "the man who built Washington."
Catholic Herald. [n.d.].
Donnelly, Eleanor C. A Memoir of Father Felix Joseph Barbelin, S. J. Philadelphia, PA: Frank A. Fasy, 1866.
Kathrens, Michael C. American Splendor, The Residential Architecture of Horace Trumbauer. New York: Acanthus Press, 2002.
Noll, Ray Robert. "A History of St. Joseph's College, Philadelphia, Pa. Before the Civil War." Manuscript. Archives, Saint Joseph's University, Philadelphia, PA.
Philadelphia Catholic Standard and Times. [n.d.].
Public Ledger. [n.d.]
Thomas, George E. William L. Price Arts and Crafts to Modern Design. New York: Princeton Architectural Press, 2000.