“Visitors to the Bryn Athyn of four months ago would hardly recognize the present perspective and those who knew our institution in Friedlander street, Philadelphia, will rub their eyes and wonder if this is, indeed, the same old ‘Academy’” (Editor, New Church Life 1904, 569).
Those individuals who have recently visited the new buildings on the campus of Bryn Athyn College, in Bryn Athyn, Pennsylvania, may find that the above sentiment, expressed over a hundred years ago, speaks equally well to the present day.
In 1901, a new building was erected for the Academy of the New Church College and Secondary Schools (see photo, top) on land that is now occupied exclusively by the Academy Secondary Schools. It would eventually be given the name Benade Hall (1910), in honor of the Rev. William Henry Benade. A dormitory for girls, Glenn Hall, was built the same year, but was occupied by the boys until 1904 when their own dormitory, Stuart Hall, was constructed. The dining hall and heating plant were also built in 1904. In 1909 work began on the combined library and museum building (now the Fine Arts Building, see photo, left), and the elementary school (De Charms Hall, now part of the Secondary Schools).
Finishing touches on Benade Hall were still going on in the summer and early fall of 1902: “Much work has been going on during the summer, in and around the Academy School building. . . . The roads have finally been finished, and the grounds roundabout have been leveled and sown with grass, so that the whole ‘campus’ now has the appearance of an immense and neatly kept lawn. Trees and shrubs will next be put in, to break the monotony of the wide expanse, and vines to trail up the rocky walls of the great building. It looms up now like an errand prophecy upon the horizon. What a beauty it will present a few years hence!” (Editor, New Church Life 1902, 597).
Space was at a premium in the newly developing community of Bryn Athyn, requiring the Academy schools to share space in Benade Hall from the start. The library and museum occupied rooms in the building until 1911. New Church Life, a monthly New Church journal, had its editorial offices there as well. In 1903 the Bryn Athyn congregation made arrangements to rent the chapel, necessitating a move up to the art room for college morning chapel. The elementary school, having outgrown their accommodations in the “club house,” rented rooms on the first floor.
In 2009, Bryn Athyn College, the Academy of the New Church Secondary Schools, and Bryn Athyn Church Elementary School all occupy their own campuses. The recent construction of the Brickman Center and Doering Center has completely transformed the Bryn Athyn College campus. As was the case a century ago, the students and faculty at the College are excited about the possibilities this suggests for the future. When Benade Hall was completed in 1902, a Bryn Athyn resident expressed the humility and sense of optimism shared by many at that time: “The doubt occurs: Can all this be meant for us? No; not for us, but for the most glorious use in the wide world. Nothing can be too good for it” (Editor, New Church Life 1902, 562).
Photos: The top photograph shows Donald Rose in front of Benade Hall, circa 1909; the photographer was Camille Vinet. The photograph of the old library and museum building (now the Fine Arts Building) was taken circa 1911 as construction was nearing completion. The photograph of Benade Hall, looking towards the library and museum building, was also taken by Camille Vinet. All three photographs are in the collection of the Academy of the New Church Archives, Swedenborg Library, Bryn Athyn, PA. The two color photographs of the Brickman Center and the Doering Center were provided by Bryn Athyn College.
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