Council of Independent Colleges Historic Campus Architecture Project


Conyngham Student Center

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Institution Name: Wilkes University
Original/Historic Place Name: Residence of William Hillard Conyngham
Location on Campus: 130 S. River St.
Date(s) of Construction:
ca. 1898original construction Gifford, Charles Alling
Designer: Charles Alling Gifford
Type of Place: Individual building
Style: Other (Glossary)
Significance: architecture, culture, history
Narrative: see below
References: see below
Foundation: stone
Walls: brick with extensive masonry and decorative stone detailing
Roof: apshalt shingle, previously slate
1898-1975private residence
1975-present (2006)other (office facilities, special student survices)

Conyngham Hall was one of the more prominent second-generation mansions built along the Susquehanna River waterfront. The original dwelling occupying the site was demolished in 1896 in order that William Hillard Conyngham, a member of a family of coal and commission merchants, could build a new home for his bride next door to his older brother John's house and a block from the homes of his father and the widow of his late uncle. The house was designed in 1897 by Charles Gifford, a New Jersey (later New York) architect and a friend of Conyngham's. Gifford also designed a number of resort hotels and the state of New Jersey buildings for both the Chicago Columbian Exposition of 1894 and the Louisiana Purchase Exposition of 1904. William and his first wife lived in the home for only a few years before her death. The house was then left vacant until 1918, when Mr. Conyngham and his new wife, Mrs. Jessie Guthrie Conyngham, and their three sons called it home. When Jessie passed away in 1972, Conyngham was left to Wilkes University.

Conyngham Hall is the second campus building to bear this name. The first, John Conyngham's house, was donated to the college in 1938, but was destroyed by fire thirty years later. The new Conyngham Hall suffered severe flood damage in 1972, after four and a half feet of water swept through the building. Only a few months later, fire added damage to several walls. More than $350,000 was spent in 1979 to reconstruct the building.

As its name implies, the Conyngham Student Center is a hub for student affairs -- academic and non-academic alike. Other offices provide tutoring and academic-support services for students from Wilkes University and local high schools.


Andrews, Ronald L. "An Inventory of Historical Landmarks on the Campus of Wilkes College, Wilkes-Barre, Luzerne County, Pennsylvania." Typescript. July 1975. Wilkes University, Wilkes-Barre, PA.

Andrews, Ronald L. Historic Sites Survey of Wilkes-Barre: Final Report. Wilkes-Barre, PA: Wyoming Historical and Geological Society, 1979.

Cox, Harold E. The Wilkes University Historical Atlas. Wilkes-Barre, PA: Wilkes University Press, 1997.


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Last update: November 2006