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A Modest Proposal: Some Rejected and Altered Architectural Designs for TJU Campus Buildings

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Tivoli Theatre, first home of JMC, 1825.

As Thomas Jefferson University moves into its 21st century phase of building construction and expanding its campus, it may be interesting to look back at a few of the buildings of the past; those proposed, but not selected, as well as the alterations in style.

1820s - 1830s

The first home (1825-1828) of the Jefferson Medical College was established in the refurbished leased theater on Prune Street (now Locust Walk). Built as a cotton warehouse in 1820, it then became the Winter Tivoli Theatre and later the City Theatre. The first faculty funded the interior renovations and it is assumed that the exterior looked as it did just before it burnt down in 1924.

The second home was built at Sansom and 10th Streets and was funded and then leased by the Very Reverend Doctor Ezra Stiles Ely, D.D., a trustee of the board. Depictions of the main façade show an arched niche at the apex with a statue of Thomas Jefferson nestled within. But it appears to have been the artist's wishful thinking as there is a note pasted into the bound correspondence of the Medical College circa 1829 that read:

I shall not purchase any statue of Mr. Jefferson for the Jefferson College, but if the professors choose to do it they may. The Dean of the medical faculty is Dr. Barton, who lives No. 212 Chestnut Street.
E.S. Ely, Trustee, etc.


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Ely Building, a.k.a., College Hall, 1828-1845. Ely Building with a Classical façade change, 1846-1880. Ely Building with third façade, 1881-1898.

1840s - 1890s

In 1846 the "College Edifice" got its first face lift with a "Grecian" portico designed by Napoleon Le Brun along with interior enlargements. Le Brun built many noted Philadelphia and New York churches.

Once again, in 1881, the College Building put on a new front, this time in the Victorian eclectic style of red brick which complemented its Frank Furness-designed hospital built four years before.

By the 1890s a new College Building was to be relocated on the northwest corner of 10th and Walnut Streets. A proposed campus plan by architect James H. Windrim included a central neo-Renaissance building flanked by two multi-storied structures in the gothic collegiate style similar to those at the University of Pennsylvania. But the final Windrim design selected was a single unit in the Italian Renaissance style opened in 1898 which served until the Curtis Clinic took its space in 1930.

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Walnut Street plan for JMC, ca. 1895. Not built. 1898 College Building at Walnut & 10th Streets with new College Building to left, 1929.

1920s - 1930s

An enormous expansion occurred in the 1920s and an artist’s rendering for a new 12-story building on Walnut Street was offered in 1927 in a standard neo-classical brick style. Although the ponderous Romanesque style was chosen for the College and Curtis Clinic buildings (1929-31), the stepped upper stories and open arches help reduce the bulk of this block-long complex.

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Proposed design, not built, 1927. College and Curtis Clinic Buildings, 1929 & 1931.

Jefferson nurses lived at the Nurses Home on 1012 Spruce Street in a stone building made by Frank Furness. Jeff nurses occupied the structure from the mid-1920s until 1959 when the Martin Nurses' Residence was opened on 11th and Walnut Streets. A 1920s proposal sketch for the Spruce location exists by architect J. Fletcher Street. It was never built and the Furness site still survives.

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Spruce Street Nurses Home, not built, ca. 1927. Martin Nurses’ Residence, 11th Street at Walnut, 1959.

1960s - 1970s

The very modern Orlowitz Residence Hall was opened in 1967 but drawings show that its sunken garden and exterior appearance were modified before groundbreaking began.

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Orlowitz Residence Hall, proposed design. Orlowitz Residence Hall, accepted design, 1967.

The 1970 Scott Memorial Library went through a number of iterations by the architectural firm of Harbeson, Hough, Livingston and Larson until its final design settled on an Italian renaissance castle with an open arcade on the ground floor. A previous plan showed a fortress-like box with its entrance pierced by only two 20 foot arches.

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Scott Memorial Library, proposed design. Scott Memorial Library, accepted design, 1970.

Numerous more buildings were and are a part of the history of Jefferson's physical presence in the city but these few archival images are the only vestige of some proposed-but-not-built structures of our growing campus.

Related Links:

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