Holy Cross and Its Neighbors Home
Fenwick Hall
St Joseph's Chapel and Dinand Library
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History by Phil Schneider and Daniel Riley

Mount Saint James, or Packachoag hill (the Hill of Pleasant Springs), as it was formerly known, has undergone great change and development over the past two hundred years - both literally in terms of buildings and physical alterations to the land, but also in terms of the way people have conceived of the space. One of the individuals who worked with the Nipmucs, the Native Americans living on the site was the Rev. John Eliot. A congregationalist minister, Eliot preached to and taught the "praying Indians" of Quinsigamond.

The original plot of fifty-two acres, purchased by Rev. James Fitton from the Parch family farm in 1836, was described as situated "on that most delightful eminence which bounds the flourishing town of Worcester and on the South Packachoag. The spot was "eminently healthful, not to be "surpassed by any spot in New England. Every description of the College, from the 1800s to the present, stresses the vista from atop the hill the location permitted residents to both see and be seen "(Nutt 741). To the north lay the Blackstone River, and further on, the road to Hartford. The canal to Providence created the easterly boundary, while western hills rounded off the site (Meagher and Grattan 25). Bishop Benedict Fenwick remarked that the site of the future College of the Holy Cross, Packachoag Hill, was "an extensive hill watered by a little stream of pure water" (Kuzniewski 23). As Meagher and Grattan note in their history of the College, The Spires of Fenwick, "Academe seems likely to have been confused with Eden" (25).

Fr. Fitton had come from a recusant English tradition, his father having emigrated from Preston in Lancashire, an area of England's Midlands that remained Catholic since the Reformation. Born in Boston in 1805 he was baptized in the church, later cathedral, of the Holy Cross on Franklin Street. Built in a Federal style after plans donated by Charles Bulfinch, architect of Faneuil Hall, the State House, and many of Boston's premier buildings of the time, the church assimilated Catholics into a New England landscape. Growing up, Fitton served Mass at the church and took classes at the Claremont Catholic Seminary. Bishop Benedict Fenwick, whose grave is at the college, ordained him on December 23, 1827. His early ministries took him to Maine, where he preached to the local Passamaquoddy Indians and in 1834 he was assigned to Western Massachusetts and scheduled to say mass in Worcester once a month.

The development of the site that later became Holy Cross was long and somewhat disjointed, but indeed began with Fitton's purchase of what amounted to a farm. This was no small feat for the time, as just two years earlier in 1835 Fitton had struggled to buy land for a Catholic church on Temple Street in the city. St. John's church, which now stands from its reconstruction in 1845 was made possibly only through the purchase of land by Worcester Protestants which was then transferred to Fr. Fitton. Likewise, Fitton was aided in his first real estate purchases for the seminary by Rejoice Newton and William Lincoln, local Protestant men who acted as his agents, buying three lots of pasture land (Meagher and Grattan 23).

After convincing the wealthy contractor Tobias Boland to pay for the erection of a two-story building in which to house his academy, Fitton was finally ready to invite Bishop Fenwick to inspect his work. Fenwick commented that he "was greatly pleased to see this infant institution…and that something would grow out of it useful to the church." With settlements in close proximity to the school, the institution would become a place where Indians would be educated as well. In 1836, Fitton named the school "The Mount Saint James Seminary" after his patron saint and charged a tuition of eighty-five dollars per year, which eventually rose to one hundred by 1840.

The purchase of the farm was, at the time, a remarkably valuable asset. Fitton's seminary provided assurance of nutritious vegetable and dairy products satisfied parental concern about diet, in an age dependent for the most part on local agriculture. The house and barn, surrounded by other private farms on the hill, came at the cost of two thousand dollars. Funds were provided by small donations from area Catholics, inspired by Fitton's vision of a small boarding school on the idyllic spot. The United States Catholic Almanac and Laity's Directory for the Year 1837 described the site as an "eminently healthful location, which is within a few moments walk of the centre of Worcester and junction of the rail-roads." This beauty was also the result of the hard labor which the early students were expected to perform for one to two hours a day. These students, mainly Irish laborers, cut out the upper and lower terraces from the hill under the direction of Joseph Brigden the academy's "Principal."

It was not until 1843 that the land was transferred to Bishop Fenwick, the man credited with providing the inspiration and force of the resultant college. Fenwick wasted no time in employing Protestant agents to buy another twenty-two acres of the Patch farm at a public auction later that year. With these seventy-four acres, Fenwick began the plans for his college. It is important to note the ramifications of the debate between Fenwick and his colleagues over whether or not to construct a day school in Boston or a boarding school in Worcester. Throughout this conflict, Fenwick emphasized the physical remoteness of the Mount St. James site from the urban center of Boston as well as the nearer population of Worcester itself as an asset, rather than a detriment. He expected that day colleges would tend to attract students from the lower order of society economic necessity would force many parents to withdraw their sons before they could finish the humanities course (Kuzniewski 26). Thus the remoteness of the spot appealed to Fenwick for both aesthetic and more pragmatic reasons.

Throughout the rest of the 1800s, the land under college ownership gradually expanded to include adjacent farms. During this time the college remained true to its agricultural roots; the campus farm was still in operation: The fall harvest of 1879 brought nearly 1000 bushels of potatoes and 105 barrels of apples, in addition to a thriving dairy herd (Kuzniewski 136). In 1862, then president Father Clark purchased 48 acres next the lower campus. After the Civil War, student population growth both facilitated and demanded the physical expansion of the college. Thus in 1900, land at the bottom of the hill, populated by a few aging buildings, was purchased for the sake of baseball field. Fitton Field was more or less developed in the ensuing years, prompting Father Hanselman to extol the college's outside with delightful walks, tennis and hand-ball courts and a large athletic field (Kuzniewski 194). The site had always been conceived of as a self-sufficient institution. In the 1800s that meant a farm and dairy herd, but as time went on it came to mean athletic facilities and new dorms and a dining hall. The dynamic definition of a college was reflected in the physical characteristics of Holy Cross.

Of significant note in the latter development of the College's physical site are the gates and the installation of interstate 290. Initially there was only a gate at the entrance to Linden Lane; this was supplemented in 1923 by a gate for Fitton Field, farther down the hill, and an iron fence linking the two (Kuzniewski 231). The purpose was symbolism more than security, providing an elegant distinction between the college and the street. Notably, at this time college athletics were a source of pride and disportment for city residents as well as students. Such coincidence of interests, however, was not eternal. As the college grew and defined itself, so did the surrounding area.

The road to Southbridge was completed in 1902 (Nutt 994), thereby establishing a new boundary with the college in place of the canal, which had formerly defined the site. Increased traffic at the base of the hill no doubt gave further psychological force to the college's location above. Local transportation interests only spawned a conflict in the 1950s, when the Massachusetts Department of Public Works proposed plans for I-290. The road was originally slated to run twenty yards behind Kimball, arousing vehement opposition among the Jesuits and other college supporters. The conflict was painted in terms of the college versus the city, given that the college was not only accused of delaying progress, but proposing an alternative route requiring the destruction of local factories (Kuzniewski 326-29). This route was eventually chosen and only two small sections of college land taken for the project. The line between college and city had, however, been firmly drawn.

Fenwick and O'Kane: The Heart of the College by Deanna DeArango

As with most college campuses, the many buildings on the campus of Holy Cross seem to represent architectural excellence and grand structures. However, what is often not realized at first glance at the beautiful buildings of Holy Cross is that the architecture of each building is reflective of the time period in which it was built. The eclectic Revival styles that characterize Fenwick Hall of the 19th century are very different from the pared-down Modernist style in which the dorms on Easy Street were built in the 20th century. At certain times, specific architectural styles were used in the construction of new buildings not only all over the city of Worcester, but all over the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. One can see similarities in appearances of buildings built during the same time period, and also built by the same architect. As it exists today, Fenwick Hall is a multifaceted building complex that encompasses many architectural styles characteristic of the time in which they were added.

In 1843, construction of the site that was to become the main academy building began. At the time, Greek Revival was an important style, especially in Worcester which boasted a number of churches and public buildings, as well as a significant number of residences with Greek revival principles. Greek Revival was extremely popular in the United States in the early 19th century and was associated with ancient classical virtues such as knowledge and strength. Fenwick Hall was originally constructed using traditional materials of brick and granite. In this first incarnation, the building housed nearly all of the main offices and activity areas, including offices, classrooms, dormitories and a chapel. In the late 1840's Fenwick was expanded by the addition of an east wing. This original building of Fenwick Hall was largely destroyed by a fire in 1852 and needed to be entirely rebuilt. Captain Edward Lamb was the architect for this project. The parts of the east wing that remained after the fire were integrated into the new building, completed in 1853. Original drawings from both the 1843 and 1853 building plans show similarities of the Greek Revival design of the building.

In 1867, Fenwick Hall was largely expanded and rebuilt by prominent Worcester architect Elbridge Boyden, who also designed the Cambridge Street School. An additional floor was added to the building, a new west wing was built, the towers were added and the mansard roof built. Boyden's work did away with a great deal of the original Greek Revival design of the building and incorporated elements of the Collegiate Gothic and Second Empire styles. (Collegiate Gothic was a style, inspired by the English, used in many university buildings. Second Empire was a style modeled after architecture of the time of Napoleon III and was popular in the late 1860's. It is characterized by pavilions, pedimented dormers and French Renaissance detailing.) Boyden also built Worcester's Cathedral of St. Paul and Washburn Machine Shops at Worcester Polytechnic Institute. The architecture of Fenwick and the Washburn Machine Shops are very similar, as can be seen in the buildings' repetition of many windows with white arched moldings, high white towers, detailed cornices, and a brick outside.

Fenwick Hall was enlarged again in 1875 under the auspices of Boston architect Patrick W. Ford, who also built St. Peter's Catholic Church on Main Street in 1893. O'Kane Hall was built and attached to the west end wall of Fenwick in 1895 by the firm Fuller & Delano. Finally, Commencement Porch, designed in Georgian Revival style, was added to the front of Fenwick Hall in 1907. (Georgian Revival, also referred to as Colonial Revival, mirrored the architecture of Britain under the reign of Kings George I, George II, George III, and was derived from classical Greek architecture.) The addition of Commencement Porch is interesting in comparison to other architectural elements also appearing in prominent buildings in Worcester at the same time. The Colonial Revival also characterized the architecture of the American Antiquarian Society and the Worcester Women's' Club.

Fenwick Hall's architectural intricacy, grand size, prominent towers, symmetrical windows and classic columns portray its importance on campus. It is perhaps one of the most striking buildings on campus because of its complex combination of many rich architectural forms. Its form is associated with the typical brick "L" shaped or single block style familiar to other college campuses of its time such as Yale's Connecticut Hall or Georgetown's Healy Hall.

Expansion and a new Renaissance Style : St. Joseph's Chapel and Dinand Library by Katie Mahoney

Dinand Library and St. Joseph's Chapel were built as part of the expansion of the College after World War 1. The Boston architectural firm of Maginnis and Walsh (Charles McGinnis (1867-1955) was commissioned to design both projects, which would for the first time provide defined spaces for worship and study on the campus. The function of library and chapel were once housed in Fenwick Hall; now as separate buildings they announce their function through their forms and details. Having previously designed buildings for Boston College in the Gothic Revival style, Maginnis and Walsh altered their style to Renaissance Revival for the Holy Cross projects. This style was in the tradition of the Jesuit architecture of the late 16th century, which sought to fight against Reformation by constructing beautifully ornate places of worship. The first evidence of such design was in that of the temple of the Jesuit Order in Rome, called Il Gesu, built in the 1570s. Jesuit churches throughout Europe such as St. Francis Xavier in Hronda, Belarus were often striking elements in the urban landscape.

Built in 1922, St. Joseph's Chapel was constructed as a memorial to the alumni of Holy Cross who served in World War I. The primary shape of the building is that of an elongated rectangular box with a triangular cap. Flanking the primary rectangle are two smaller rectangular boxes, above which is a bank of arched windows. The exterior of the structure is in red brick and contrasting light stone. Three wooden doors are situated at the front of the chapel, and a fourth door with a small stone balcony is situated centrally above the entrances. Evenly spaced in front of the doors are four large Corinthian columns, which are mirrored by stone pilasters on the façade, clearly evoking the elegance it Renaissance precedent. A front view of the chapel presents the observer with a sense of verticality, the large columns extending from ground to pediment pulling the eye upward and dominating the facade. The thickness of the columns in proportion to the façade presents, at the same time, a solid, grounded effect. The smaller outcroppings on either side of the structure serve to anchor it as well, though they seem somewhat lost in the overall strength of the central core of the structure. Atop the columns, the ornately carved pediment is full of detail and beautifully crafted, and the golden cross on top of the structure adds elegance and energy to the building.

Leading up to the entrance and columns is a short flight of stairs which stretches across the width of the structure. These steps serve to elevate those attending the Chapel to a place above the everyday, and lead them into the beautiful stone and marble interior. High vaulted ceilings are covered with a geometric pattern of octagons and squares which recess into it, highlighted by gold paint. Such designs were common in Renaissance church architecture, one such example is Alberti's Saint Andrea in Mantua, Italy, designed in 1470. Unlike their Renaissance predecessors, however, these vaults are made of plaster instead of stone. This saves both time and money in the construction process and allows the designer more structural flexibility. Rows of columns and arches line the sides of the chapel, with two rows of pews flanking a main aisle that leads along the central axis towards the altar. Stained glass, polished marble, and more gold detailing illuminate the interior space and give it an elegant and reverent appearance.

Dinand Library dates between 1925 and 1927, named in honor of Bishop Joseph N. Dinand, S.J., a former president of the college. It was built to house the college library as well as the college museum and undergraduate activities such as the debate club and student publications. The primary shape of the front of the structure is a long rectangular box with columns stretching across the center portion of the building. The original structure had heavy temple vault doors at the entrance, which were later replaced by glass to provide light and a view of the space within. Patrons entered at the museum level and proceeded up a flight of stairs to the main reading room. Below the reading room were the stacks used to hold the library's many books and periodicals. The library's collection grew substantially throughout the mid 1900s, necessitating the addition to the original structure. The Joshua and Leah Hiatt wings, the gift of Jacob Hiatt, were built in 1977 and dedicated to the memory of the victims of the Holocaust. Set predominantly below ground, they allowed the original setting of the building to remain untouched. In a modern style of metal and glass, the wings compliment the classical brick and stone structure without compromising its integrity and stature.

A monumental flight of stairs leads up to the entrance of Dinand Library, providing those who seek to enter with a similar experience of ascension as that of entering the chapel. These stairs, however, have a wider tread and provide a more fluid journey from the street level to the entrance. The columns of the library are smaller and do not dominate the façade in the same way as those on the chapel, and emphasize horizontal flow instead of vertical. Again, brick and granite are the primary materials on the exterior of the structure. The interior is also mainly in stone, with the focus on the expansive main reading room. A high ceiling is sectioned off in a grid-like pattern, embellished by gold and painted trim. Like those in the ceiling of the Chapel, the geometric recessions in that of the reading room have Renaissance precedent in buildings such as the Teatro Olimpico, designed by Palladio in Vicenza from 1580-84. Large wooden candelabra are suspended from the ceiling, adding to the stateliness of the space. The columns from the exterior are repeated again here around three sides of the room, and carvings along the top of the interior walls add detail and elegance.

Like St. Joseph's Chapel, this building is a place of higher meaning. The sheer size of the building and its Renaissance styling conveys importance and a seriousness of purpose while proclaiming the ideals of knowledge and discovery. There was some discussion at the time of its creation that the library was too grandiose a project for a Jesuit institution, however such opposition was overcome and the project was built as designed. Like the Chapel it is a structure with strength, character, and dignity, which seeks to bring ordinary people into a world above and beyond their daily routine and envelop them in greatness.


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