Council of Independent Colleges Historic Campus Architecture Project

 

 
Ferry House

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Institution Name: Vassar College
Original/Historic Place Name: Dexter M. Ferry Cooperative House
Location on Campus: 277 feet southwest of Main Building
Date(s) of Construction:
1951original construction Breuer, Marcel
Designer: Marcel Breuer
Type of Place: Individual building
Style: Modern/post-WWII (Glossary)
Significance: architecture, culture, education
Narrative: see below
References: see below
Materials:
Foundation: concrete
Walls: white painted brick
Roof: originally asphalt, currently rubber
 
Function:
1951-present (2006)residence hall (originally cooperative dormitory housing)
 

Narrative:
Built as a cooperative dormitory (the last remnant of the euthenics movement at Vassar), Ferry House, designed by Marcel Breuer, is an elegant example of International Style modernism on the Vassar College campus. Its location was the subject of some controversy at the time, and its siting behind Main and next to the old stables, reflects the sense that some administrators were unaware of what to do with modern architecture. The building follows a conventional functionalist plan, with activities divided between differently expressed architectural zones: an upper block is for sleeping and studying, a lower block for communal activities (eating and playing). But despite the open plan, the building reflects Breuer's European origins as well as his American experience. For example, the brick is painted white (with suggestions of modernist efficiency) and there are strip windows and corrugated Constructivist-style sun-screens, all signs of European influence. On the other hand, there is also extensive use of natural raw cypress wood, large plate glass windows, a fieldstone floor, and a fire place, all aspects of American materials and design.
 

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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Last update: November 2006