Council of Independent Colleges Historic Campus Architecture Project


Wardman Art Center

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Institution Name: Whittier College
Original/Historic Place Name: Wardman Gym
Location on Campus: east side of Upper Quad, at the south end
Date(s) of Construction:
1924original construction Allison & Allison
1998remodeled Jones, William Loyd
Designer: Allison & Allison (original); William Lloyd Jones of Venice, CA (1998)
Type of Place: Individual building
Style: Other (Glossary)
Significance: architecture, culture, education, history, religion
Narrative: see below
References: see below
Foundation: concrete
Walls: reinforced concrete
Roof: tarred
ca. 1924-1970gymnasium
ca. 1970-1980theater
ca. 1970-1980academic department building (theater; included construction shop)
ca. 1980-present (2006)faculty offices (art dept)
ca. 1980-present (2006)museum (lobby art gallery)
ca. 1980-present (2006)academic department building (art; includes faculty offices, computer art editing facility, workspace)

The Wardman Art Center opened as Wardman Gymnasium in 1925. Like Wardman Residence Hall, it was also significantly underwritten by Aubrey Wardman, a pioneer telephone and oil magnate from the Whittier area who served for many years on the college's board of trustees. The Mediterranean-style building, when no longer fit for use as a gym, was replaced in that function by the modern Graham Athletics Center during the 1970s. The older building subsequently served the theater department as a construction shop and headquarters until the completion of the Shannon Center for the Performing Arts during the 1980s. It currently houses art department faculty offices, a computer art editing facility and a large arts workspace and gallery. It is a roomy, highly flexible multi-story indoor space currently without central air conditioning.

From the 1920s to the 1960s, Wardman Gym was not only the setting for many legendary victories and defeats by the men's and women's basketball teams, but was also the scene of an historic commencement and well-attended homecoming luncheon for alumni in 1954. Vice President Richard M. Nixon and his Whittier College Class of 1934 observed their twentieth anniversary, and Nixon's cousin, Quaker author Jessamyn West (Friendly Persuasion) was a featured speaker. Nixon also received an honorary doctor of laws degree in a ceremony that drew live television coverage.

To accommodate current classroom and office space, a remodeling was completed in 1998, for which architect William Loyd Jones of Venice, CA drew the plans. At the present time, the building may need refurbishment of its roof.


Arnold, Benjamin F. History of Whittier. Whittier, CA: Western Print Corporation, 1933.

Carter, Coila. "History of Whittier." B. A. thesis, Whittier College, 1908.

Cooper, Charles W. Whittier: Independent College in California. Los Angeles, CA: Ward Ritchie Press, 1967.

Cooper, Charles W. The A. Wardman Story. Whittier, CA: Whittier College, 1961.

Elliott, Charles, Jr. Whittier College: The First Century on the Poet Campus, a Pictorial Remembrance. Redondo Beach, CA: Legends Press, 1986.

Feeler, William Henry. History of Whittier College. M. A. thesis, University of Southern California, 1919.

Harris, Herbert Eugene. The Quaker and the West: The First Sixty Years of Whittier College. [s.l.:] Whittier College, 1948.

Pearce, Phyllis M., Claire G. Radford, and Mary Ann Rummel. Founders and Friends. Whittier, CA: Rio Hondo College Community Services, 1977.


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Last update: November 2006