Council of Independent Colleges Historic Campus Architecture Project


Ascension Hall

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Institution Name: Kenyon College
Original/Historic Place Name: Ascension Hall
Location on Campus: 202 College-Park St.
Date(s) of Construction:
1857-1860original construction Tinsley, William
Designer: William Tinsley
Type of Place: Individual building
Style: Gothic revival, Victorian, Other (Glossary)
Narrative: see below
References: see below
Foundation: stone
Walls: stone (olive shale)
Roof: slate
ca. 1860-1925theater (Philomathesian Literary Society and Nu Pi Kappa Literary Society)
ca. 1860-1925library (Philomathesian Literary Society and Nu Pi Kappa Literary Society)
ca. 1860-1925debating society (Philomathesian Literary Society and Nu Pi Kappa Literary Society)
ca. 1860-1925classrooms
ca. 1860-1925academic department building (science laboratories)
1925-presentfaculty offices (departments of classics, economics, modern languages and literatures, philosophy, and religious studies)

Ascension Hall is the work of William Tinsley, a noted architect of the mid-nineteenth century who designed buildings on a number of college and university campuses (among them Indiana University, the University of Wisconsin, and Wabash College). A native of Ireland, Tinsley was brought to Kenyon by Bishop Gregory Thurston Bedell, the College's board chair, for whom he also designed a remarkable residence, known as Kokosing, which is also in Gambier. Tinsley's biographer, J.D. Forbes, notes in his book, Victorian Architect: The Life and Work of William Tinsley, that he considers Ascension Hall Tinsley's masterpiece. Constructed of olive shale, Ascension Hall is a tall, long, and handsome building with five distinct sections and a central tower, capped by a small, now-antique astronomical observatory.

Ascension Hall is so named because it was built, in large part, with a gift from the congregation of the Church of the Ascension (Episcopal) in New York City. Bedell was a former rector of the church, and his successor was the son of a former president of Kenyon. (Although the College no longer maintains close ties with the Episcopal Church, it remains a member of the Association of Episcopal Colleges. Kenyon's Episcopal roots are evident in many buildings - and names of buildings - around the campus.)

Ascension Hall was the College's first building to be used almost exclusively as a classroom facility. Until the 1925 completion of Samuel Mather Hall, Kenyon's first building solely for the sciences, Ascension housed laboratories as well as classrooms. The building also houses two large halls on the second and third floors of its center section, which were originally the headquarters of the College's two literary societies, Philomathesian and Nu Pi Kappa. The societies' rooms also served as libraries and as theater spaces for their dramatic presentations.

The current condition of the building is good. It has been renovated several times over the years, most recently in 1988. The building's roof was repaired, and the slates replaced, within the past few years.


Bodine, William Budd, ed. The Kenyon Book. Columbus, Ohio: Nitschke Brothers, 1890.

Forbes, John Douglas. Victorian Architect: William Tinsley. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 1953.

Greenslade, Thomas Boardman. Kenyon College: Its Third Half-Century. Gambier, OH: Kenyon College, 1975.

Johannesen, Eric. Ohio College Architecture before 1870. [Columbus?]: Ohio Historical Society, 1969.

Siekkinen, George. Kenyon College. National Register of Historic Places designation report. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of the Interior/National Park Service, 1975.

Smythe, George Franklin. Kenyon College: Its First Century. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1924.

Stamp, Tom. "This Will Do." Kenyon College Alumni Bulletin 22, no. 1 (Spring 2000).


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