An Unrealized Georgetown
Published: Friday, January 31, 2014
Updated: Friday, January 31, 2014 02:01
While Georgetown’s campus continues to change as numerous master-planning projects develop, the Alternative Georgetown Exhibit, featured in the Stephen Richard Kerbs Exhibit Area in Lauinger Library, portrays a slew of other possibilities that may have been for the campus, including a gothic styled library and a 20,000 seat football stadium.
The display featured plans for 12 different campus spaces that were never realized or were never completed as originally planned.
“I was thinking about renovations on campus, which got me thinking about buildings that had been planned but had never actually been built,” Special Collections University Archivist Lynn Conway said. “I thought that would be a much more interesting exhibit than just renovations on campus or buildings on campus.”
A featured proposed renovation revealed plans for a new library with an architectural collegiate gothic influence to be built in February 1954, because Riggs Library did not provide enough available space at the time.
Plans for the library developed and in 1965, the exterior was designed to incorporate aspects of Healy, Copley and White-Gravenor halls, but included an irregular outline and an emphasis on vertical lines.
After the plans for the library in 1965 failed to come to fruition, Lauinger Library was designed instead and eventually built in 1970.
“[Lauinger] uses some of the same forms and materials, but at the detailed level, it’s a very modern building. The one that we saw from 1954 was very conventional in architecture, kind of bland in its architecture,” Tom Luebke, secretary of the United States Commission of Fine Arts, of which the Old Georgetown Board is a part, said.
According to Luebke, it is difficult to determine whether the OGB would have favored the initially proposed library over Lauinger.
“These decisions get made in the time when they come through,” Luebke said. “That’s not to say that it’s arbitrary, but the values evolve.”
Similarly, preliminary plans for the Reiss Science Building show sketches vastly different from the eventual realization. Initially proposed in 1955, the design of the science building was intended to have a collegiate gothic design similar to that of White-Gravenor. By the time that Reiss was completed in 1962, the design had significantly changed.
“Reiss is a very modern building that has a bigger scale. [The proposed building] was obviously much more historicist,” Luebke said.
Another project proposed in 1921 included a 20,000-seat football stadium, which would be located on the site where the Medical-Dental Building and Shaw Field are now situated.
“When you look at the stadium and compare the size of the stadium to the footprint of the buildings that existed on campus at that point, the stadium would actually be bigger than the buildings that already existed. I thought that was very interesting,” Conway said.
One piece featured a proposed map from 1908, which planned to extend P Street and Volta Place through campus that would connect to Foxhall Road. The proposal was introduced to Congress after Representative Everis Anson Hayes (R-Calif.) purchased property to the west of campus. Hayes wanted to extend the streets in order to have easier access to his land.
“I’ve always been very interested in that idea just because that would have changed campus if you actually had cars on a public road just right through the middle of campus,” Conway said. “It really would have gone through the heart of campus, which would have looked very different today had that happened.”
The university hired an attorney to fight the proposal. Additionally, Georgetown turned to President Theodore Roosevelt who, while he never promised to veto the bill if it passed Congress, said that he disapproved of bills created to personally benefit congressmen. The university eventually won out by arguing that the street extension would result in the destruction of a beautiful part of campus and that the construction would have been very expensive.
Marla Abadilla (MSB ’17) expressed relief over the 1908 the bill’s failure.
“I think it would have interfered with the community of the campus and the atmosphere on campus. I feel like we have our own Georgetown bubble and our own culture that’s separate from the city and having public streets go through campus would’ve had an impact on the culture,” she said.
The exhibit was scheduled to run through Jan. 31, but ended a week early to make room for an exhibit featuring Jesuit history, in honor of Jesuit Heritage Week.