Council of Independent Colleges Historic Campus Architecture Project

 

 
Blodgett Hall

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Institution Name: Vassar College
Original/Historic Place Name: Blodgett Hall of Euthenics
Location on Campus: 1,194 feet northeast of Main Building
Date(s) of Construction:
1928original construction York & Sawyer
Designer: York & Sawyer
Type of Place: Individual building
Style: Gothic revival, Other (Glossary)
Significance: architecture, education
Narrative: see below
References: see below
Materials:
Foundation: concrete
Walls: masonry stone
Roof: slate
 
Function:
ca. 1928other (cooperative house)
ca. 1928-present (2006)classrooms
ca. 1928-present (2006)other (lecture hall)
ca. 2004-present (2006)other (laboratories)
 

Narrative:
Built in 1928 by the architectural firm of York & Sawyer, Blodgett Hall is a Gothic Revival building planned to embody the idea of Euthenics. Invented by the Vassar graduate Ellen Swallow Richards, the discipline of Euthenics was conceived as a way to educate women holistically in the social and physical science of domestic life. It incorporated under one roof facilities for lectures, laboratory work, museum displays, household technology, as well as library resources for the social sciences. In a letter to the architect, President Henry Noble MacCracken described the building's program as a multidisciplinary endeavor centered in "the sciences which have to do with the improvement of material living conditions," and that its landscape and general design were to be "in harmony with this purpose."

The building forms a square, U-shaped plan, with a formal lecture hall in one arm and classrooms, offices, and model dwelling units in the basement and other arm. The division in function is expressed in different architectural styles. The lecture hall is in a Gothic style with pointed arched windows, tracery, and even small (though useless) buttresses on the outside. The classrooms, offices, and practicum areas are in a toned-down form of Gothic chateau style that seems to recall a monastery or convent rather than the formal church Gothic of the lecture hall.
The building's construction date of 1928 makes it roughly contemporary with the greatest works of early European modernism. This modern influence is reflected in the building's free interpretation of traditional forms. Thus, at the off-center entry gate, the moldings around the door swell forward recalling streamlined contemporary art deco architecture. Additionally, the building is constructed from rough-cut, colorfully-striated stone that has been laid with wide joints to carefully distinguish each block. The effect is not unlike the abstract color experiments found in the work of the painter Piet Mondrian and the associated De Stijl movement.

The building opened up a new area of the campus recently acquired. It was the basic building of a quadrangular group, which was also to include a dormitory (Cushing), a nursery school (Wimpfheimer), and a gymnasium (Kenyon). All the buildings in this block of four were to be dedicated to improved living. In the 1930s part of Blodgett was assigned to cooperative house living and in the 1940s, it housed a social museum that showcased the results of Vassar's work in the Poughkeepsie community. A special exhibition about public housing in New York City illustrated themes of a lecture presented at the college by Eleanor Roosevelt. After the 1940s when Euthenics was withdrawn as a major, Blodgett was broadened for more general use. Over the years, tenants in the building have changed following changes in the curriculum. Today the building houses the departments of Sociology, Psychology, and Anthropology.
 

References:

Collens, Charles. "Vassar College." Architectural Review 123, no. 2411 (January 17, 1923).

Daniels, Elizabeth A. Main to Mudd and More. Poughkeepsie, NY: Vassar College, 1996.

Daniels, Elizabeth A. Bridges to the World: Henry Noble MacCracken and Vassar College. Clinton Corners, NY: College Avenue Press, 1994.

Gaines, Thomas A. The Campus as a Work of Art. New York: Praeger, 1991.

Horowitz, Helen Lefkowitz. Alma Mater: Design and Experience in the Women's Colleges from Their Nineteenth-Century Beginnings to the 1930s. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1984.

Lewis, Dio. The New Gymnastics. Boston: Ticknor & Fields, 1862.

Linner, Edward R. Vassar: The Remarkable Growth of a Man and His College. Elizabeth A. Daniels, ed. Poughkeepsie, NY: Vassar College, 1984.

Lloyd, Harriet Raymond. Life and Letters of John Howard Raymond. New York: Fords, Howard and Hulbert, 1881.

Lossing, Benson J. Historical Sketch of Vassar College. New York: S. W. Green 1876.

Lossing, Benson J.. Vassar College and Its Founder. New York: C. A. Alvord, 1867.

MacCracken, Henry Noble. The Hickory Limb. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1950.

Miscellany News. Vassar College, Poughkeepsie, NY.

Plum, Dorothy A., and George B. Dowell. The Great Experiment, A Chronicle of Vassar. Poughkeepsie, NY: Vassar College, 1961.

Schuyler, Montgomery. "The Architecture of American Colleges: X. Three Women's Colleges: Vassar, Wellesley & Smith." Architectural Record 31 (May 1912).

Swan, Frances W. et al., eds. Communications to the Board of Trustees of Vassar College by Its Founder. New York: Vassar College, 1886.

Van Lengen, Karen, and Lisa Reilly. Vassar College: An Architectural Tour. New York: Princeton Architectural Press, 2004.

Vassar Quarterly. Vassar College, Poughkeepsie, NY.

Vassar Views, Vassar College, Poughkeepsie, NY.

Vassarion. Vassar College, Poughkeepsie, NY.

 

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