Council of Independent Colleges Historic Campus Architecture Project


Ravine, The

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Institution Name: Allegheny College
Original/Historic Place Name: Ravine, The; Rustic Bridge, "Lake George"
Location on Campus: central campus, parallel to North Main St.
Date(s) of Construction:
1910original construction; Rustic Bridge unknown
1910landscape design with rhododendron and native shrubs unknown
1938landscape design with 100 specimens of shrubs and trees unknown
Type of Place: Landscape site
Style: (Glossary)
Significance: education
Narrative: see below
References: see below
ca. 1854outdoor space (pond formed in upper area, serving as recreational space and also fire reservoir)
ca. 1854other (garbage dump and sewer)
ca. 1902-1960facility management building (steam heating plant)
ca. 2004-present (2006)outdoor space (for reflection)

The ravine running along the eastern edge of the original campus was considered a hindrance in gaining access to Main Street (the old Waterford Turnpike) and was first used as a dumping ground and sewer. Around 1854 the ground was broadened and raised for a drive connecting to the turnpike, effectively dividing the ravine into two sections. In the blocked-off upper ravine stood a small pond called, in jest, "Lake George," which served as both a recreation spot and a fire reservoir. This area was permanently emptied in 1888. A steam heating plant, with its towering 300' chimney, was constructed here in 1902, replaced by a smaller maintenance building in the 1960s.

The original Rustic Bridge spanning the lower ravine was built in 1910, the gift of Sarah B. Cochran. This 99'2" log bridge was much repaired and eventually replaced, first in 1938 and again in the 1970s. Traditions grew up around the bridge, including one that stated if a male student walked his date across the bridge three times in an evening without proposing, she had the right to throw him over; and another that stealing the thirteenth plank would free the freshmen from the rules imposed upon them by the sophomores. A co-ed was not considered a "true Alleghenian" until she had been kissed on the thirteenth plank. For many years, the Ladder Oration, Valedictory, and other Class Day speeches were given from the bridge.

The Ravine was formally landscaped in 1910 when trustee Frank A. Arter donated a railroad carload of two hundred rhododendrons and soil from Port Jervis, New Jersey. A significant number of trees and shrubs were added in 1914, in preparation for the College centennial, and in 1938, trustee Andrew Wells Robertson donated more than one hundred specimens of shrubs and trees. Among many unusual species or varieties that can be found in the upper and lower ravine are an Amur cork tree, a dawn redwood, and a bald cypress.

Today the Ravine is an arboretum-like environment that has both aesthetic and educational value. It is the preferred site for memorials, including the Nancy Sutton bench, the Viet Nam Memorial, and a Scattering Garden. The spring blooms of rhododendrons and dogwoods are spectacular, but in all seasons, the Ravine provides a place of meditation and inspiration.


Burt Hill Kosar Rittelmann Associates. Deferred Maintenance and Building Renovation Cost Study [Allegheny College]. Report. [Pittsburgh, PA: Burt Hill Kosar Rittelmann Associates], 1999.

Celli Flynn Brennan. Campus Master Plan [Allegheny College]. [Pittsburgh, PA: Celli Flynn Brennan], 2002.

Deed Book H. Meadville, PA: Crawford County Court House, pp. 404-05.

Dober, Lidsky, Craig and Associates. Allegheny 2000. Master plan. [Belmont, MA: Dober, Lidsky, Craig and Associates], 1987.

Dober, Lidsky, Craig and Associates. Heart of the Campus Report [Allegheny College]. [Belmont, MA: Dober, Lidsky, Craig and Associates], 1987.

Helmreich, Jonathan E. Historic Campus Tour. Meadville, PA: Allegheny College, 2001.

Helmreich, Jonathan E. Through All the Years: A Browser's History of Allegheny College [working title for publication celebrating College Bicentennial]. Meadville, PA: Allegheny College, forthcoming.

"Old Allegheny." Allegheny College Bulletin (January 1922).

Rolland/Towers. Campus Master Plan [Allegheny College]. [New Haven, CT: Rolland/Towers, 1992.

Smith, Ernest Ashton. Allegheny College--A Century of Education. Meadville, PA: Tribune Publishing Company, 1916.

Stephens, D. M. Old Allegheny: A Handbook of Information. Meadville, PA: Allegheny College, 1921.

Stotz, Charles M. The Early Architecture of Western Pennsylvania. New York: William Helburn, Inc., for the Buhl Foundation, 1936.


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Last update: November 2006