The purchase of Christmas Hall by Asa Packer in 1865 set the first stepping stone in a path toward the mountain slope campus known as Lehigh University.
Lehigh’s storied campus tradition is synonymous with its architecture. That is, to tell the history of the campus’ structural change is to tell its history as a university — dynamic and innovative.
Although The Brown and White, founded in 1894, was not around to document the campus’s earliest establishments, the publication has closely followed university development since its earliest incarnation.
The university’s story begins with what University Architect Brent Stringfellow calls the campus’s “historic core.”
After purchasing Christmas Hall, which was renamed Christmas Saucon in 1872, Packer pursued a greater undertaking. He insisted on a stone-built statement to house his university, which included a railroad line as a means of transporting the building’s material. In 1868, Packer Hall, which is now known as the University Center, opened its doors to all academic and social activity.
In its youth, the triple-partitioned building housed the President’s office, laboratories, classrooms and a museum. For nine decades, Lehigh’s earliest departments of civil engineering, mathematics, philosophy and psychology were also in the University Center.
Lehigh then began to stretch itself outward, and the $100,000 addition of Linderman Library — a roughly $2.4 million undertaking today — marked the first step outside of Packer Hall. Packer named the building after his daughter, Lucy Packer Linderman, and the building was finished in 1877.
“(Linderman Library) is what a lot of people’s mental image of a college library looks like,” said political science professor Al Wurth.
The following years included the construction of similarly-styled Gothic revival pieces, such as Coppee Hall, home to the journalism department and The Brown and White. The building was originally an open-floor gymnasium, which was finished in 1885. Other Gothic-style buildings included Packer Memorial Church, which was finished in 1887, and Chandler Hall — now Chandler-Ullmann Hall — which was finished in 1884.
Chandler-Ullmann, designed by Philadelphia-based architect Addison Hutton and Lehigh chemistry department head William Chandler, optimized the flow of ideas generated inside the building during the time of chemical science’s proverbial gold rush. Due to its state-of-the-art laboratories, the building was recognized at the International Exposition in Paris in 1889.
Lehigh theater professor Pam Pepper, who started working at Lehigh in 1987, had her first office in Chandler-Ullman. She said she felt firsthand the impact of working among such rich history.
“I loved that building,” Pepper said. “The worn stairs. Hundreds of people have walked up and down the stairs. That always resonates with me.”
Stringfellow said he believes that Chandler-Ullman is not only historically important, but also academically important.
“Lehigh’s historic legacy isn’t just how the buildings are old,” Stringfellow said. “From the time that Asa Packer started the school, there’s been an idea that the buildings put on campus should be forward-looking as well.”
Lehigh’s architectural mode of operating thereafter reflected a similar initiative that inspired the construction of Chandler Hall. Lamberton Hall was built in 1907 followed by Fritz Laboratory in 1909 and Packard Laboratory in 1929. These places answered a call for innovative spaces of learning.
Fritz Laboratory’s use of wide-flange steel i-beams, courtesy of Bethlehem Steel, was one of the country’s first, and it hinted at future generations of productive engineering research. On Sept. 27, 1910, The Brown and White printed an update on the new Fritz Laboratory, highlighting the facility’s vertical screw machine, which was the largest in the world at the time.
The Brown and White also followed the progress of Packard Lab throughout its 35th volume. The articles ranged from an alumni discussion about the lab’s plans and approval for the contractor by the Board of Trustees to the first clubs and sessions held in the building.
Pepper said that she experienced the campus’s progression by means of structural change in Zoellner Arts Center, which opened in 1997. She formerly worked in what is now Wilbur Powerhouse. She said she recalled standing inside of Baker Hall with her senior students, tears in their eyes, in response to their new venue of learning.
“It (is) a space for students to be able to tackle new projects—things that they had never done before,” Pepper said. “The physical structure of the building — the office spaces in conjunction with the scene shop and the costume shop — allows us to physically be together, which is so important to what we do.”
Ken Kodama, earth and environmental science professor, said he feels similarly about his own workspace in STEPS, which was finished in 2010. Formerly stationed in Williams Hall, Kodama said the facilities were not optimal for conducting research because he had to carry his own unwieldy equipment up flights of stairs.
“(STEPS) is a really up-to-date, modern facility,” Kodama said. “(Students can) learn how to do measurements and how to analyze data.”
The Brown and White printed an article in Vol. 115 about the new addition to the campus. Tony Hanna, director of community and economic development of Bethlehem at the time, said STEPS would set an example and improve the university’s relationship with the city.
As Lehigh embarks on future developments, such as its Path to Prominence campaign, Stringfellow believes that the university will keep similar interests in mind.
“We want to… create better pathways, better connections and better relationships,” Stringfellow said.