Digital History at Ursinus

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Breaking Ground: A History of the Construction, Destruction, and Renovation of Ursinus College

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Bears Breaking Ground: A History of Construction, Destruction, and Renovation at Ursinus College aims to educate the public about the history of Ursinus buildings. The group decided to pick three buildings that are personally connected to our lives on campus. The three buildings are currently known as Myrin Library, Bomberger Memorial Hall and the Berman Museum of Art. The project is just the initial step in creating a full history of the buildings on campus. Although each building was built at a different time in the college’s history, two major dates of renovation have emerged through our research, the 1970s and the mid 2000s. 

Myrin Library was built in 1970. It stands where Freeland Seminary, later Freeland, Stein and Derr Halls, stood. Freeland Seminary was built in 1848 and was incorporated into Ursinus’s space after its founding in 1871. Stein and Derr Halls were added later to include dormitory and cafeteria space on campus. In 1965 the building was declared to be a fire hazard, no longer big enough to house the student population of Ursinus and infected with different types of vermin. It was destroyed that same year. Since Freeland Hall and Myrin Library are geographically related, they have been placed first since Freeland Hall was the oldest building (of our three) to be associated with Ursinus. Under the Freeland Hall and Myrin Library tab, there is information about Freeland Seminary, Freeland Hall, Myrin Library’s construction, the Book Walk, and Myrin Library’s dedication.

Bomberger Memorial Hall is still the same building under the same name, though it is generally shortened to Bomberger Hall. Built in 1891 from a generous donation by Robert Patterson, it is named in memory of one of the college's founders and the first president of the college, John Henry Augustus Bomberger. It is the oldest building still in use on campus, with the exteriors integrity being kept in its signature Romanesque architectural style. It has undergone renovations on its interior in the 1920s and 1970s to keep the building useable and up to the building code of the time. The only major and visible exterior renovation Bomberger has had was in 2006, with the north entrance being changed to a handicap accessible entrance/exit and offices for Career and Professional Development and the Education Department. Under the Bomberger Memorial Hall tab, there is information about the construction of Bomberger Hall, a few prominent rooms of the building, particularly its main chapel, the various renovations that have been done in its interior and exterior, and the organs of Ursinus College.

The Berman Museum have been known by three different names. It was initially built as the Alumni Memorial Library (AML) in 1921 to honor the Ursinus students killed during World War II. In 1973, the building transitioned for a short time into being the College Union. By the gift of Philip and Muriel Berman, the Berman Museum was established 1989 and lives on this campus to this day. It is still the original building built in 1921, but has had extensive renovations additions over the last 95 years. Under the AML, College Union, and Berman Museum of Art tab, there is information about fundraising to build the AML, the AML itself, the College Union, and The Philip and Muriel Berman Museum of Art.

Each section holds specific details about each building’s evolution in the last 123 years of Ursinus history and include pictures from various decades, newspaper articles from The Ursinus Weekly/The Grizzly, and articles from The Ursinus Bulletin. All this information and originals can be found in Ursinusiana. The hope is that the project will be continued by future students and will include a history of all buildings on campus.

 

We would like to take a moment to extend our gratitude to all the people who have helped us through this project. Thank you to the U-Imagine Center, Dr. Susanna Throop, Dr. Kara McShane, Mrs. Carolyn Weigel, Mr. Andrew Prock and everyone else who has given us advice on our journey through this project. We greatly appreciate all your support. 

All pictures and articles are from Ursinusiana, the Ursinus College Archive, and the Ursinus Digital Commons. They are free to private and educational use.

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