The April 1st Homepage Photo Saga

On April 1st, 2011, we put out this call for information regarding a photograph of Main Building that was posted as part of a historical series celebrating the college’s 150th anniversary. The photo appeared to contain puzzling architectural discrepancies—differences in the mansard roof and the number of windows—to what we’ve seen in other historical documentation.

Vassar College Campus, c. 1880. By Pach, Gustavus W., 1845-1904 Photographer. Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

After some thoughtful responses from the Vassar community,* it was determined that the view of Main above is of the building’s rear section and some of the north wing, c. 1880s. The photo was taken from what is today Noyes Circle, though today’s view would be obstructed by Ely Hall. This wing was damaged by a the Fire of 1918, but was repaired and remained in use until it was incorporated into the construction of the College Center in 1975. Read more about the evolution of Main Building in the Vassar Encyclopedia.

Original floorplan of Main Building, completed in 1865. The section indicated in red was damaged by the 1918 fire (pictured below).
1918 Fire
Damage to Main's rear wing after fire of 1918.

*Bravo and thanks to the sleuths who helped solve the mystery:
Michael Zipp ‘11, Josh de Leeuw ‘08, and Susan Stephens ‘79.

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