Council of Independent Colleges Historic Campus Architecture Project


Old Main

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Institution Name: Washington and Jefferson College
Original/Historic Place Name: Main Hall; The Main Building
Location on Campus: South Lincoln St.
Date(s) of Construction:
1836original construction; central portion
1847-1850addition of wings and dome
1865addition of twin towers
1875addition of 4th floor, mansard roof, and present facade Barr & Moser
1926major renovations and repairs
Designer: Barr & Moser for repairs and additions in 1875
Type of Place: Individual building
Style: Romanesque revival, Victorian, Other (Glossary)
Significance: education
Narrative: see below
References: see below
Foundation: sandstone
Walls: interior: plaster; exterior: brick
Roof: slate, single ply rubber
ca. 1836dining hall (dining facilities with coffee house)
ca. 1836chapel
ca. 1836other (dance studio, art studios)
ca. 1836other (science laboratories)
ca. 1836faculty offices
ca. 1836classrooms
ca. 1836old main
ca. 2004-present (2006)other (Student Resource Center)
ca. 2004-present (2006)faculty offices
ca. 2004-present (2006)classrooms

Old Main, the most memorable and beloved of W&J's buildings, has served virtually every student in the College's history since the construction of the central portion in 1836. Between 1847 and 1850, the wings and dome (later removed) were added. The twin towers, dominant exterior features, were built in 1865 with a gift of $50,000 from the town of Washington to symbolize the union of Washington College and Jefferson College. In 1875, the fourth floor, mansard roof, and present facade were added. Major renovations were made in 1926, the year in which the lanterns were placed in the towers.

Historically, "main buildings" such as this were important in the development of higher education and often are found at historical institutions. The versatility of design and massive scale permitted the teaching of all disciplines. Faculty offices, science laboratories, a dance studio, The Chapel, art studios, dining facilities, and a "coffee house" have all been part of Old Main's history.

Today, Old Main is still viewed as the heart of the campus. Indeed, this local landmark signifies a center of academic life and is an enduring symbol of W&J. The two towers of Old Main serve as the central symbols of the College's logo.


"The Archives: The Fraternity of Phi Gamma Delta." Online (2006). Washington College, Washington, PA.

Coleman, Helen Turnbull Waite. Banners in the Wilderness. Pittsburgh, PA: University of Pittsburgh Press, 1956.

Day, Sherman. Historical Collections of the State of Pennsylvania. Philadelphia: G. W. Gorton; New Haven: Durie and Peck, [1843]. Reprint, Port Washington, NY: Ira J. Friedman, 1969.

Dober, Lidsky, Craig, and Associates. Washington & Jefferson College: Campus plan 2001. [Belmont, MA: Dober, Lidsky, Craig, and Associates], 2001.

Donnelly, J. B. Venerable W & J at 200. Washington, PA: Washington & Jefferson College, 1980.

LaQuarta, Jack. Washington & Jefferson College Landscape Master Plan. Pittsburgh, PA: [s.n.], 1983.

W & J: The Magazine for Alumni and Friends of Washington & Jefferson College. Washington, PA: Washington & Jefferson College.

W & J Walker Volunteer Manual. Handbook. [Washington, PA: Washington & Jefferson College, n.d.].


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Last update: November 2006