Council of Independent Colleges Historic Campus Architecture Project


Bethany College Infirmary

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Institution Name: Bethany College (WV)
Original/Historic Place Name: William Pendleton Cowans Livery Stables (with connecting office and residence)
Location on Campus: Main St.
Date(s) of Construction:
ca. 1866 or 1867original construction Curtis, Jacob E.
Designer: Jacob E. Curtis
Type of Place: Individual building
Style: Regionalist/Vernacular (Glossary)
Significance: architecture, education, religion
Narrative: see below
References: see below
Foundation: local sandstone
Walls: brick
Roof: standing seam tin (originally); three tab asphalt shingle (currently)
1867-1910private residence (and livery stable)
1910-1914other (telephone office)
1937-1945private residence

This Bethany College Infirmary Building is historically significant to the Town of Bethany, as it is among the earliest buildings constructed in the town. Jacob E. Curtis built several homes in Bethany during the 1850s-1870s, many of which were built using a similar architectural form. In addition, the house was the home of William Pendleton Cowans, who operated the first livery stable in town on the lot adjacent to the house. A connecting office joined the residence and the livery stable.

The building is meaningful to Bethany College as being the first building set aside for exclusive use as an infirmary for the student body. The first evidence of a small infirmary for the students dates from 1930, after the remodeling and expansion of Phillips Hall. However, it was not until the spring of 1937 that an inclusive health program was developed, and the Bethany College Board of Trustees made the decision for the first time in the history of the college to hire a full time nurse and a college physician. In May of 1937, they recommended that the college should provide for an isolated infirmary adequate to take care of the needs of both men and women. The plan was that it should house a college physician and staff. In the fall of 1937, Samuel Sprigg Jacob became the first college physician, and the college made plans to remodel the Cowans property on Lot #66 for use as the doctor's home and private office. In February 1945, the college announced that the Cowans house had been remodeled as a Health Center. It contained a doctor's office, treatment room, medicine room, and wards for men and women. In November 1945, the facility became known as the Infirmary and continued in this capacity until the fall of 2001.

The building, in use as an infirmary from 1945 through fall of 2001, has been vacant since the fall of 2001, at which time a new Health and Wellness Center opened in the remodeled John J. Knight Natatorium. The college has not yet made a decision as to the future use of the building.

Plans for the construction of the construction of a new gymnasium, to be dedicated as a memorial to Jennie Irvin (class of 1904), began in November of 1916, and Irvin Gymnasium was under construction on this site by May 1917. When it was completed in 1919, the new building measured 100 feet in length and 52 feet in width. The contractor was P. W. Finn and Son, and cement and lime used in the building were supplied by C. R. Carman. The name of the architect has not yet been discovered. When the student strike in the spring of 1919 took place in protest over enforced participation in ROTC, the students made the new gymnasium their headquarters. By June of 1922 a swimming pool measuring 20 x 60 feet on the ground level was in operation in the building. There were shower baths, team rooms, coach rooms, faculty offices, lockers, an indoor track, and a gymnasium floor. The five-story tower contained a coach's lecture room, janitor's quarters, and an office. Between Old Main and Irvin gymnasium was a track and football field. Bleachers faced the track, and a long-jump pit was positioned near the sidewalk in front of the gymnasium.

Over the years, Bethany constructed more up-to-date athletic facilities around the campus, thus moving the heart of College athletics away from Irvin. Nevertheless, it continued to be used as a physical education facility for women from 1948-1975. From 1975-1976 until 1979-1980, it was used for physical education for both men and women and for many years included a modern dance studio. In 1980-1981, it was used as a recreation center for the campus and continued in this capacity until 1983-1984, at which time it was closed in order to begin preparation for remodeling as a visual arts center. On October 11, 1984, the renovated and refurbished Irvin Gymnasium was dedicated as the Grace Phillips Johnson Memorial Visual Arts Center. Its new function was to provide studios for painting, sculpture, crafts, drawing, photography, ceramics, computer graphics, and graphic design, as well as providing space for a television studio, classrooms, a slide viewing room, a gallery, and offices. The architect in charge of the remodeling was Albert H. Filoni of MacLachlin, Cornelius and Filoni, Pittsburgh.


Bethany College [WV] Infirmary. Historic Property Inventory form. Morgantown, WV: West Virginia Antiquities Commission, 1981.

Browne, Henry J. Bethany Historic District [including Bethany College (WV)]. National Register of Historic Places designation report. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of the Interior/National Park Service, 1982.

Carney, Brent. Bethany College. Charleston, SC: Arcadia Publishing, 2004.


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