Council of Independent Colleges Historic Campus Architecture Project

 

 
Musselman Library

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Institution Name: Bluffton University
Original/Historic Place Name: Musselman Library
Location on Campus: next to College Hall
Date(s) of Construction:
1929-1930original design McLaughlin, T. D. Davidson, Oliver
Designer: T. D. McLaughlin (Lima, OH); Oliver Davidson
Type of Place: Individual building
Style: Colonial revival (Glossary)
Significance: architecture
Narrative: see below
References: see below
Materials:
Foundation: cement block and concrete
Walls: brick with Georgia marble trim
Roof: slate
 
Function:
1930-present (2006)library (with reading room, stacks, Mennonite Historical Library, office, seminar rooms, service, etc.; now with additional computer facilities)
 

Narrative:
Although Musselman Library is designed in the neo-Palladian style, which no doubt traces its origin to Wren's Trinity College Library in Cambridge, it is still distinctive and was one of 42 libraries across the United States included in Edna Ruth Hanley's College and University Library Buildings. It is the subject of voluminous correspondence from and to S. K. Mosiman, president of Bluffton College at the time, and much attention was devoted to its design, function, site placement, interior décor, and cost. In one of his letters, Mosiman comments proudly, "Students frequently speak of it and wonder how anything could be more beautiful"; and throughout his correspondence he is concerned with aesthetic choices, even the color of the mortar for the bricks, worrying that gray mortar may not be right for the colonial style. His letters also indicate that he is pleased that the library was constructed for so little--about $60,000 (including equipment within). Traditionally, Mennonites have valued frugality and a simple lifestyle.

The library is designed in a "T" plan (the broad top of the "T" as the front elevation); the front façade of 68 feet has five bays and the ends have versions of Palladian windows. The second-floor Reading Room extends across the entire front. The entrance is accentuated with a marble pediment, although President Mosiman had initially requested columns, or if that was too expensive, at least pilasters. Georgia marble is also used for the keystones and other trim. While cost clearly played a role in the design, functionality was an important factor. In Mosiman's 1931 dedication speech, he points out that the library is situated in the "midst of a grove of native forest trees near the center of campus, affording an ideal location for the quiet atmosphere of a building of its type." The library was sited facing northeast, an ideal location according to Hanley, since the northern light is more even and does not expose readers to direct sunlight. The tall windows also provide more light. The plan was commended because it allowed for future expansion, and because the spacious Reading Room was isolated from the stacks and other service areas, thus making it more quiet. Much attention was also devoted to the interior furnishings--oak desks and Windsor chairs to match the shelves and wainscoting, metal lanterns and marble niches for sculpture on the first floor lobby.

The library was named for the donors--the Musselman family of Pennsylvania, whose company is known for apple butter and other food products. Although it is not certain, some believe Musselman Library was the model for several other libraries--perhaps for that at Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa, which has a similar plan and elevation but with seven bays.
 

References:

Bassett, James H. Bluffton College Campus Plan: A Concept for Continuing Physical Development. November 1965. Bluffton University, Bluffton, OH.

Bassett, James H. Comprehensive Plan for Bluffton College. March 1961. Bluffton University, Bluffton, OH.

Hanley, Edna Ruth. College and University Library Buildings. Chicago: American Library Association, 1939.

Sasaki Associates Inc. and Basset Associates. Bluffton College Master Plan: Executive Summary. [Watertown, MA: Sasaki Associates Inc. and Summit, NJ: Basset Associates], November 2000.

 

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Last update: November 2006