Council of Independent Colleges Historic Campus Architecture Project


Selinsgrove Hall

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Institution Name: Susquehanna University
Original/Historic Place Name: Selinsgrove Hall
Location on Campus: University Ave.
Date(s) of Construction:
1858original construction Zeigler, Henry
Designer: Henry Zeigler
Type of Place: Individual building
Style: Italianate (Glossary)
Narrative: see below
References: see below
Foundation: stone, concrete
Walls: wood frame, brick
Roof: wood frame
ca. 1858old main
ca. 2004-2006residence hall
ca. 20ca. 2006-present (2006)administration

During its first two decades of life, the Missionary Institute, now Susquehanna University, was contained in one building. The building, which is now Selinsgrove Hall, was designed by Henry Zeigler, though he likely simply took a building plan sketched by one of several catalogs available at that time and simply doubled it-that is, the north and south halves of the building are twins. As was often the case in college communities before the Civil War, the Institute building was the largest structure in town and perhaps its most ornate. Its style was Italianate Renaissance, a classical form quite typical from 1840 to 1860, denoted by a low-pitched gable roof topped by a cupola, arched windows and doors, brackets on the cornice line, and simple door surrounds. It was constructed of red brick trimmed in limestone.

This was the domain of the Principal of the Classical Department, not the Institute's Superintendent. Peter Born was the first occupant of this building when it was finished in the fall of 1858. He and his family of five children lived in the north end of the first floor of the Institute building, with a janitor, John Lieb, and a cook, Catherine Buck. In the northeast corner of this floor was a parlor and in the northwest was a sitting room; bedrooms occupied the balance of the space. Directly below in the basement were a kitchen, dining room and storage space. To the south of the building were gardens cultivated by theological students, and to the west were a barn for Born's animals and an orchard. To the east was a wash house, and off the southwest corner of the building there was a well. Lining College Street to the east were small bins storing the coal each student used to heat rooms.

A graduate reminisced about the latter: "Along the fence [surrounding the Institute] were coal-bins where students stored their fuel.[...] In the morning the students brought their coal scuttles full of ashes and dumped them on a pile near the bins, parked their scuttles in their respective bins, went to their clubs for breakfast and on returning carried their day's supply of coal to their rooms." The grounds were surrounded by a white picket fence-the whole having a rural, pastoral aura.

However, life was not easy for Peter Born and his family. One daughter, Ida, died shortly after being born. Then in November of 1863, disaster struck when three of the Born children, John aged six, Sarah (Sally) aged four and Benjamin, named for Kurtz, aged two, died within a week of each other of scarlet fever; Sarah and Bennie were buried in the same coffin. Another son, Reuben, was born in 1865. Older sisters Elizabeth and Caroline survived-indeed, they became the first women educated at the Missionary Institute and each married a Lutheran pastor who would briefly be President of Susquehanna University.

Day-to-day supervision of the Institute's affairs fell to Born and Henry Zeigler. The former was the Institute's steward, keeping the building clean and repaired, serving as proctor for its residents and chief instructor. Born also shared responsibility for daily worship with Zeigler. His compensation was $800, the rent of seven rooms to house his family, and the use of three acres of grounds and a stable. In 1861, a different arrangement was made between Born and the Board of Managers by which he rented the Institute building and grounds for two years. His financial arrangements with the Board were probably similar to those of his successor which are known: the Institute building was rented, compensation was received out of the fees, room and board paid by students up to a certain amount, say $1800, with the balance above that split between the Board and the Principal. Early on, Sarah Hill Born, the resident mistress of the Institute building, provided board to its residents, using a kitchen and dining room located in the basement. By the school's second year, boarding clubs located in houses on South High Street, with names such as Delmonico's, Excelsior or National, were formed by students living in the Institute building.

Housley, Donald. A Goodly Heritage: Susquehanna University, 1858-1985 (excerpts).


Bariess, Phillip, and Mark Blake. Selinsgrove Hall & Seibert Hall [Susquehanna University]. National Register of Historic Places designation report. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of the Interior/National Park Service, 1979.


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