It is somewhat surprising that Lafayette has only one remaining building in the Collegiate Gothic style, Hogg Hall. Gothic Revival architecture has a long and prominent history in America, although it never flourished here to the extent that it did in England. In Europe, the Gothic Revival was part of the Romantic movement at the beginning of the 19th century and encompassed all the arts. In fact, its beginnings may be traced to the “Gothick” novels of Sir Walter Scott and others. Gothic Revival evoked what its supporters believed to be a lost age of authenticity, craftsmanship and spirituality, and the style was, of course, particularly appropriate for church architecture. After the Civil War, serious architects lost interest in Gothic Revival due to its excessive elaboration in the Victorian High Gothic.
Around 1900, there was a Late Gothic Revival. Like the earlier one, it was fueled by a desire for renewed spirituality as well as by the success of H. H. Richardson’s Romanesque Revival. It was also the result of a new archaeological interest in both English and French Gothic architecture. In Europe, important restorations were under way on many of the notable Gothic churches. Books began to appear in English on the development of medieval architecture, and the great medieval churches became mandatory stops on the Grand Tour of Europe undertaken by many well-to-do Americans. The new Gothic Revival buildings were made of authentic materials, never wood imitating stone as were some of those of the early Gothic Revival. The later buildings were less decorative and more archaeologically accurate than their predecessors. They breathed America’s interest in religion and history.
An important sub-category of Late Gothic Revival was Collegiate Gothic. The period around 1900 was one of great growth for American universities. Some of our greatest institutions became competitors with the best universities of Europe and aspired to styles of architecture that bespoke their claims to advanced education. Accordingly, many of the buildings at such universities as Pennsylvania, Princeton and Yale are Collegiate Gothic in style and remind us of their antecedents at Cambridge and Oxford.
Hogg Hall is Lafayette’s foray into Collegiate Gothic. The building was given to the college in 1901 by James Renwick Hogg, class of 1878 and member of the Board of Trustees. It was designed by Philadelphia architect Charles Weber Bolton, Class of 1880, and was completed for Founder’s Day 1902. Bolton was known for his Gothic Revival churches. He had previously designed Gayley Hall of Chemistry and Metallurgy (no longer extant) at Lafayette.
Hogg Hall was originally called Brainerd Hall and was home to the Brainerd Society, one of the evangelical and missionary societies that were popular on college campuses during this period; it was also the college’s social and recreational center. Hogg contained a 250-seat auditorium with a pipe organ for religious ceremonies on the second floor, meeting rooms, a public hall and trophy room on the first floor, and a bowling alley in the basement. Over the years the building has undergone interior alterations as the needs of the college changed. In 1923, the auditorium was equipped with a stage and was converted into the Little Theater, where college plays were presented.
Career Planning and Placement now occupies a newly designed area that was once the auditorium. The College Chaplain’s offices are on the main floor, and the Hall is used for small college meetings and occasional religious services. In 1944, the name of the building was changed to Hogg Hall to honor its donor. The following year, the bowling alley was removed to make way for a student restaurant; the basement currently houses a student cafe and the college radio station.
The exterior of Hogg Hall remains as originally designed and true to the Late Gothic Revival. Its features include a T- shaped plan with the more elaborately detailed cross-gable topped with a crossette at the southern end of the building. This design mimics the stylistic progression of the Gothic period, whose buildings were often developed and made more decorative over generations. Hogg is constructed of granite purposely laid in uneven courses to enhance its old and hand-crafted appearance. The entrance is a slightly pointed Gothic arch with a blind arcade, as was used in Gothic cathedrals, above it.
The ornamental buttresses on either side of the entrance and at the corners of the building are reminiscent of the structural buttresses attached to original Gothic churches. The window casings are of limestone, and the color difference emphasizes the building’s massiveness. In addition, the windows beneath the cross-gable contain stained glass within Gothic trefoil frames. The dormer windows feature decorative vergeboards beneath their upper edges. Gargoyles are found throughout the building. Those surrounding the windows and entrance seem to represent professors and students, while the corner carved dragons are based upon the much larger dragon drainspouts at Notre Dame of Paris.
The Gothicism of Hogg Hall, however, is not that of a medieval church. It more resembles a medieval manor house. There are several reasons for this reference. For one, the building was used for secular as well as religious functions. More importantly, Lafayette’s Presbyterian heritage discouraged a close association with Catholic or High Anglican liturgy that a more traditional Gothic Revival design might make. Instead, Hogg Hall calls upon another association deeply rooted in American history: the religious building as meeting house.
It is also a happy coincidence that Hogg Hall, the college’s oldest remaining organizational, social and recreational building, now is located next to its newest, the Farinon College Center.
From “Lafayette College Architecture: In Context” by Robert Saltonstall Mattison. Easton, PA: Friends of Skillman Library, 1991.