Council of Independent Colleges Historic Campus Architecture Project


Old West

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Institution Name: Dickinson College
Original/Historic Place Name: West College
Location on Campus: 230 W. Louther St.
Date(s) of Construction:
1804original construction Latrobe, Benjamin Henry
Designer: Benjamin Henry Latrobe
Type of Place: Individual building
Style: Federal, Regionalist/Vernacular, Other (Glossary)
Significance: architecture, history
Narrative: see below
References: see below
Foundation: stone
Walls: limestone walls with locally quarried red sandstone for trim
Roof: standing seam metal
ca. 1804chapel
ca. 1804classrooms
ca. 1804residence hall
ca. 1804old main (first building of the college)
ca. 2004-present (2006)administration

Latrobe began work on plans for Old West in 1803, at the request of Hugh Brackenridge, Justice of the PA Supreme Court, who was assigned to the project by the trusteees. The origin of Dickinson College goes back to 1783, when it was incorporated by the state of PA. The college took its name from one of the original trustees, John Dickinson, signer of the Declaration of Independence and President of the Supreme Executive Council of PA, but the motivating person behind its founding was Benjamin Rush, noted Philadelphia physician and signer of the Declaration of Independence.

The old Carlisle Grammar School became the first college building but soon proved inadequate. Construction was begun on a new building in 1799, but that building was destroyed by fire in 1803, after only a few weeks of occupation. After funds were raised for a new building, Brackenridge went to Latrobe seeking his assistance. Latrobe accepted without a fee in mid May 1803. The building was ready for full occupancy in 1822. The building originally housed all the functions of the college, chapel, classrooms, and dormitory space. As the institution grew, other buildings were added. These were also of limestone construction, helping to impart continuity to today's campus. "Old West" now houses the administrative offices of the college and continues as a center for the activity of Dickinson College (From National Register report, "Old West, Dickinson College" [1966]).


Day, Sherman . Historical Collections of the State of Pennsylvania. Philadelphia: G.W. Gorton; New Haven: Durrie and Peck, [1843]. Reprint, Port Washington, NY: Ira J. Friedman, 1969.

Dober, Richard P. Campus Design. New York: John Wiley, 1992.

Dober, Richard P. Campus Planning. New York: Reinhold Publishing Corp., 1963. Reprint, Ann Arbor, MI: Society for College and University Planning, 1996.

Hamlin, Talbot. Benjamin Henry Latrobe. New York: Oxford University Press, 1955.

Heintzelman, Patricia. Old West, Dickinson College. National Register of Historic Places designation report. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of the Interior/National Park Service, 1966.

Klauder, Charles Z., and Herbert C. Wise. College Architecture in America and Its Part in the Development of the Campus. New York and London: C. Scribner's Sons, 1929.

Norton, Paul F. "Latrobe and Old West at Dickinson College." Art Bulletin 33 (1951): 125-32.

Sellers, Charles C. Dickinson College: A History. Middletown, CT: Wesleyan University Press, 1973.

Turner, Paul Venable. Campus: An American Planning Tradition. New York: Architectural History Foundation; Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1984.


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Last update: November 2006