Washington State Magazine

Winter 2008

Winter 2008

In This Issue...


On the waterfront: Tacoma's past may be a key to its future Twenty years ago, the City Club of Tacoma approached the city with a plan to unify the waterfront and build a walking path from the Tacoma Dome to Point Defiance. The painstakingly researched report urged that the entire waterfront be redesigned as a people place. Lara Hermann '95 was thrilled when a city hall worker handed her the document. "It was like a present just lands in your lap," she says. by Hannelore Sudermann; Photos by Ingrid Barrentine { WEB EXCLUSIVE–COORDINATES: Tacoma's Waterfront. An interactive map and photo gallery. View photographer Ingrid Barrentine's images along the Tacoma waterfront. }

Fine Specimens Washington State University is home to three superb research collections, all begun soon after the young agricultural college opened its doors. What makes them research collections, says Ownbey Herbarium director Larry Hufford, is "sheer numbers." The Conner Zoology Museum has about 69,000 specimens, the Herbarium about 375,000, and the James Entomology Collection more than 1.25 million. These numbers make WSU's collections among the best in the nation. by Cherie Winner { WEB EXCLUSIVES: Videos and stories }

Rethinking the fundamentals Feeding the world may require us to use old knowledge in new ways. Although the prices of fuel and commodities have dropped since early summer, the volatility of their relationship will surely dog us for the foreseeable future. While stock prices may temporarily overshadow food prices in the public consciousness, some farmers and researchers are looking at different ways of doing business, perhaps moving the land-grant university back to its founding purpose. by Tim Steury

L'Américain en Provence A story about an expatriate—and about his wine. Provence is a world away from Bellevue, where Denis Gayte '97 grew up. And French winemaking is another world away from the public relations career he abandoned. So there he was, with his French heritage and a newly minted "young French winemaker" degree—but still referred to (and always affectionately) as l'Américain. by Andrea Vogt


{ WEB EXCLUSIVEGallery: Afghanistan success story - a gallery }



:: SPORTS: Unstoppable Rueben Mayes

:: LAST WORDS: Murrow's door


:: IN SEASON: A Season for Seeds

{ WEB EXCLUSIVESVideo: "This is W.S.C." - A movie introducing Washington State College in 1952, narrated by Edward R. Murrow. }


Cover illustration: Marbled murrelets take flight, by Darlene McElroy.

The Ferry hall cupola at its new home near the Lewis Alumni Centre.

The Ferry hall cupola at its new home near the Lewis Alumni Centre.

After a fire destroyed the original Ferry Hall dormitory in 1897, it was rebuilt three years later in the popular Georgian style, complete with columns, dentils, and a four-sided cupola. Photo WSU Manuscripts, Archives, and Special Collections.


After a fire destroyed the original Ferry Hall dormitory in 1897, it was rebuilt three years later in the popular Georgian style, complete with columns, dentils, and a four-sided cupola. Photo WSU Manuscripts, Archives, and Special Collections.

Who moved my cupola?

by | © Washington State University

During a quiet weekend last July, a crew came to campus to steal away one of the University's oldest landmarks--the Ferry Hall cupola. The quaint 12-foot by 12-foot Georgian-style structure had already survived more than a century and a major relocation. Now it was on the move again.

A lot of Washington State University's history is tied up with the architectural element, starting with the original Ferry Hall, the University's first dormitory, occupying the south end campus. Men and women lived on separate floors there until Stevens Hall, the residence dedicated for women, went up on the opposite end of campus.

While he liked the new women's dormitory, President Enoch Bryan wasn't fond of the five-story brick and wood men's building, calling it "ungainly and inefficient." His reservations about the building were put to rest on November 22, 1897 when a fire from the kitchen rapidly spread and destroyed it.

By 1900, a new Ferry Hall was built in the same spot. This time, it housed about 100 students on four floors. The structure, designed by G. W. Bullard, was brick and built in the popular college Georgian style. It had many elements typical of the form including columns, dentils, and a four-sided cupola.

For three decades Ferry was the only men's dorm on campus, housing 180 students and providing a dining room used by residents of Ferry, Stimson, and Waller. WSU's first fraternity was formed there, starting as a club, and then becoming a "house" when the students moved into a rented home across campus.

James Quann '54 had his own attachment to Ferry Hall. "I spent my first night on campus in that building," he says. He wasn't even a freshman, just a high school student visiting for a 4-H summer program. But it was where he got his first taste of college life.

In the late 1960s, the university unveiled plans to tear down the Ferry Hall dormitory and build a new science building (Eastlick) in its place. News of the structure's demise was not well received, particularly among the thousands of alumni who had lived there over the decades.

At this point Quann was working for WSU as the assistant registrar and completing a doctorate degree in education. A group of campus employees, students, and alumni started campaigning to save the structure. It soon became clear that the foundation was about to give way. It would cost more to shore up the building than to tear it down and start over, says Quann. "We knew it couldn't be saved."

So someone came up with a plan to rescue the cupola. "We would save the essence of Ferry Hall to appease all those students and alumni who were upset." The alumni office sold bricks from Ferry Hall to donors, raising money in the name of Ferry Hall for scholarships as well for as the cupola's 1975 relocation to the mall.

Instead of a perch four stories up, the cupola was placed on the ground in front of Old Science Hall/Murrow Hall (another of Bullard's designs, built in 1899). It was slated to be an information kiosk. Instead, from its niche amidst the trees, it served as a meeting place, or a spot to sit out of the rain and snow and watch for passing classmates. There was usually a Daily Evergreen waiting on the bench inside.

But new construction in the Murrow Yard this year to provide for more public space and better pedestrian flow didn't include the cupola. Once again, the structure stood in the way of progress.

"Nobody had the heart to tear it down," says Mark Wilcomb '85, director of operations for the WSU Alumni Association. "It is such a great campus landmark." Like the victory bell and the Bryan Hall clock tower, it's one of those things that people think of when they remember WSU.

A couple of ideas were floated for its relocation. The best notion was to move it near the Lewis Alumni Centre, says Wilcomb, "We can take care of it and make it available for meetings, receptions, or whatever."

The idea came up at an arboretum committee meeting. Wilcomb was there and eagerly volunteered on behalf of the alumni group. The arboretum itself is a work in progress. Having just broken ground a few years ago, it is now being landscaped with a variety of trees commemorating graduating classes and in memory of alumni and others. There was certainly room for something so tied to alumni and University history like the cupola, says Wilcomb.

So, without much ceremony, a construction crew used a crane to lift the cupola from its place on the mall and carry it 600 meters down Wilson Road where a new perch at the juncture of two concrete paths awaited. A new concrete base, a touched-up paint job, and some light restoration, and the cupola is better than ever.

Now it has the best of both worlds. It can be viewed from below, as it was designed to be seen when it topped Ferry Hall, and it can be visited up close as it has been for the past three decades.

The two-acre arboretum hillside offers views of campus, the Alumni Centre, and to the south, Observatory Hill. As the landscape around the cupola is planted, "it will be gorgeous by spring," says Wilcomb.

Keeping it on campus was the right thing to do, says Wilcomb, adding that "we're certainly happy to give it a home." It's fitting that a structure under which thousands of WSU students have lived may be preserved for the enjoyment of thousands more.

Categories: WSU history, Architecture and design | Tags: Ferry Hall

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