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Collegiate Gothic is an architectural style subgenre of Gothic Revival architecture, popular in the late-19th and early-20th centuries for college and high school buildings in the United States and Canada, and to a certain extent Europe. A form of historicist architecture, it took its inspiration from English Tudor and Gothic buildings. It has returned in the 21st century in the form of prominent new buildings at schools and universities including Princeton and Yale.
Ralph Adams Cram, arguably the leading Gothic Revival architect and theoretician in the early 20th century, wrote about the appeal of the Gothic for educational facilities in his book Gothic Quest: "Through architecture and its allied arts we have the power to bend men and sway them as few have who depended on the spoken word. It is for us, as part of our duty as our highest privilege to act...for spreading what is true."
In 1901, the firm of Shepley, Rutan & Coolidge created a master plan for a Collegiate Gothic campus for the fledgling University of Chicago, then spent the next 15 years completing it. Some of their works, such as the Mitchell Tower (1901-1908), were near-literal copies of historic buildings.
James Gamble Rogers did extensive work at Yale University, beginning in 1917. Some critics claim he took historicist fantasy to an extreme, while others choose to focus on what is widely considered to be the resulting beautiful and sophisticated Yale campus. Rogers was criticized by the growing Modernist movement. His cathedral-like Sterling Memorial Library (1927-1930), with its ecclesiastical imagery and lavish use of ornament, came under vocal attack from one of Yale's own undergraduates:
A modern building constructed for purely modern needs has no excuse for going off in an orgy of meretricious medievalism and stale iconography.
Other architects, notably John Russell Pope and Bertram Goodhue (who just before his death sketched the original version of Yale's Sterling Library from which Rogers worked), advocated for and contributed to Yale's particular version of Collegiate Gothic.
American architect Alexander Jackson Davis is "generally credited with coining the term" documented in a handwritten description of his own "English Collegiate Gothic Mansion" of 1853 for the Harrals of Bridgeport, Connecticut. By the 1890s, the movement was known as "Collegiate Gothic".
It was, of course, in the great group of dormitories for the University of Pennsylvania that Cope and Stewardson first came before the entire country as the great exponents of architectural poetry and of the importance of historical continuity and the connotation of scholasticism. These buildings are among the most remarkable yet built in America ...
First of all, let it be said at once that primarily they are what they should be: scholastic in inspiration and effect, and scholastic of the type that is ours by inheritance; of Oxford and Cambridge, not of Padua or Wittenberg or Paris. They are picturesque also, even dramatic; they are altogether wonderful in mass and in composition. If they are not a constant inspiration to those who dwell within their walls or pass through their "quads" or their vaulted archways, it is not their fault but that of the men themselves.
The [Spanish-American War Memorial] tower has been severely criticized as an archaeological abstraction reared to commemorate contemporary American heroism. The criticism seems just to me, though only in a measure. American heroism harks back to English heroism; the blood shed before Manila and on San Juan Hill was the same blood that flowed at Bosworth Field, Flodden, and the Boyne. Therefore the British base of the design is indispensable, for such were the racial foundations.
Collegiate Gothic complexes were most often horizontal compositions, save for a single tower or towers serving as an exclamation.
At the University of Pittsburgh, Charles Klauder was commissioned by University of Pittsburgh chancellor John Gabbert Bowman to design a tall building in the form of a Gothic tower. What he produced, the Cathedral of Learning (1926-37), has been described as the literal culmination of late Gothic Revival architecture.. A combination of Gothic spire and modern skyscraper, the steel-frame, limestone-clad, 42-story structure is both the world's second tallest university building and Gothic-styled edifice. The tower contain a half-acre Gothic hall supported only by its 52-foot (16 m) tall arches. It is accompanied by the campus's other Gothic Revival structures by Klauder, including the Stephen Foster Memorial (1935-1937) and the French Gothic Heinz Memorial Chapel (1933-1938).
^Slipek, Edwin J., Jr., Ralph Adams Cram, The University of Richmond and the Gothic Style Today, Marsh Art Gallery, University of Richmond, 1997 p. 19
^Rev. Norman Nash designed the building. Architect Charles Bullfinch was asked to review the plans, and designed the steeple. Marjorie Warvelle Harbaugh, "Charles Bullfinch," The First Forty Years of Washington DC Architecture, (Lulu, 2013), p. 362.
^Daniel Coit Gilman, "The Library of Yale College," The University Quarterly (October 1860), p. 9.
^Kenneth A. Breisch, Henry Hobson Richardson and the Small Public Library in America, (MIT Press, 1997), p. 60.