The Campus first occupied in 1770 was an eight-acre piece of land, composed of two adjacent lots, one purchased from John and Moses Brown and the other from Oliver Bowen. Both lots, measuring together 300 feet from north to south, extended from west of what is now Prospect Street to west of what is now Thayer Street. The college property also included the land that is part of College Street extending from the campus down to Benefit Street. College Street was laid out in 1772. In 1771 President James Manning purchased a plot of land for his garden, which extended in back of the northerly of the two original lots to what is now Hope Street. The college lots were bought for $750 and the president’s land for $464. The land first occupied by Manning’s garden passed through several hands before being acquired by the University in 1854. The College Edifice (later University Hall) and the president’s house were built on the two lots. The next addition to the campus was the lot of land acquired for the building of Hope College in 1822.
The original campus looked like the English translation of this Latin word “campus,” which is “field.” Later adventures in landscaping changed that. In 1803 a row of Lombardy poplars were planted by Ezekiel Robbins between the College edifice and the president’s house. In 1840, after the building of Rhode Island Hall, gravel walks were laid out and the poplars were removed and replaced by elms. At this time the campus was enclosed by what Reuben Guild described as “a new and handsome paling,” which made it, according to President Wayland, “an ornament to the city of Providence, and one of the loveliest spots in New England.”
The campus in the 1870s is well described in The Old Back Campus at Brown by Walter Lee Munro 1879. The “back campus” of that time became the Middle Campus (renamed in 1947 the “College Green”) and was described by Munro:
“Its level was two feet, more or less, at Waterman street and even more at George street, above the grade of the sidewalk. It was enclosed at the north and south ends by fences of heavy horizontal rails. (The fence about the Front Campus at that time was of round pickets.)
“It was bounded on the west by the ‘Old Front Row,’ Hope College, Manning Hall, University Hall with the close board fence of the Register’s garden, against which Sprague Hall modestly nestled, extending southerly from it, an unoccupied space where Slater now stands, and finally, Rhode Island Hall at the George Street end.
“On the east it was limited by the graveled walk of Brown street which extended in a direct line from the narrow gate on George street to that on Waterman street. The Chemical Laboratory, built in 1862 at an expense of $25,000, then, as now, stood just back of the Brown street path.
“The University at that time owned none of the land abutting on Waterman and George streets between Brown and Thayer. With the exception of St. Stephen’s Church this was occupied by private residences of the better sort. It did own the large rectangular plat included between the back fences of these estates on the north and south, the Brown street path on the west and Thayer street on the east. This lot, commonly referred to in those days as ‘down behind the Laboratory,’ was rough, swampy ground, a veritable terra incognita to most of the students, where one must step warily to avoid the many pitfalls for which Nature was to blame or those other hazards for which the cow (sometimes cows) pastured there were responsible. For Professor Bailey and his class in Botany it was a treasure-trove of inexhaustible richness.
“In the southeast corner, about where Caswell stands, was a frog pond, well filled in wet seasons. ...”
“Sprague Hall,” referred to above, was the privy, named, it has been said, for Governor William Sprague of Rhode Island, possibly because of unfulfilled hopes that he would present a building to the University. Located at the rear of University Hall toward Slater Hall, the privy was in the late 1960s the object of an anthropological dig by some of Professor James F. Deetz’s students, who found bits of eighteenth-century pottery there. The lower campus, transformed through the efforts of Professor Samuel Stillman Greene from swamp to ball field in the spring of 1880 and named Lincoln Field, was the site of athletic events until the advent of Andrews Field in 1899. Meanwhile, the “Old Back Campus,” now the Middle Campus, which had lost its trees and been stripped of its top soil, was given new young trees, winding walks, and additional steps at the rear doors of the buildings to accommodate the level of the ground. The old South well was abandoned in the summer of 1880, and the pump which was near the old president’s house on the front campus was removed.
Brown was not ivy-covered until the early part of the twentieth century when Superintendent of Buildings and Grounds Edwin A. Burlingame planted ampelopsis, the better to cover the buildings. In 1915 a crop of buckwheat was raised on the middle campus and plowed in to benefit both the trees and the lawn about to be seeded there. In 1913 about 225 feet of tunnel, six feet high, was constructed to connect almost all the buildings. Around the turn of the century it was decided that there should be a plan for the future development of the campus, and in 1901 architect Frederick Law Olmsted made a survey of Lincoln Field and prepared plans for its grading and the locations of future buildings. In 1920 President Faunce affirmed the University’s decision that buildings should conform to the Colonial or Georgian architecture, “which not only reminds us of the age in which the University was founded, but is far better than the Gothic to give the generous lighting needed in modern libraries and laboratories.” In that year Charles L. Klauder was supervising architect, whose responsibility it was to approve any future building plans. General plans for the expansion of the University were prepared by Paul Cret in 1922, and the East Side Development Company was organized to purchase property to the south of the campus, where the Wriston Quadrangle was later situated. The commitment to Colonial architecture continued for a while, but with modifications, and was finally abandoned.
With an eye to expansion the University began to add to its real estate holdings in the 1920s, acquiring in 1922-23 the Coats estate at 13 Brown Street, the Pearce lot at the corner of Brook and Manning Streets, estates at 201 and 205 Bowen Street, two lots on Cushing Street which Stephen O. Metcalf presented to the Women’s College, and the block bounded by Brook, Williams, Power and Thayer Streets, which was to be used for tennis courts. An exchange with the City of Providence of a small lot on Sessions Street for another parcel on Elmgrove Avenue added to the land for the future athletic facilities. A portion of the land in that area given earlier by Mrs. Almira T. Metcalf was returned to her heirs in an agreement which removed the restriction of the use of the remainder of that land. The next year the University purchased St. Stephen’s Row consisting of five brick houses numbered 130 to 138 George Street and also the property of Harry Loeb Jacobs, president of Bryant-Stratton College, on the south side of College Street.
In the spectacular hurricane of September 21, 1938, when downtown Providence was flooded, Brown, with four hundred freshmen on campus for Freshman Week, suffered only minor damage. A dozen trees were felled, the roof fell off the swimming pool (where five freshmen were taking a swimming test) and traveled thirty feet to land on the greenhouse, the statue of Caesar Augustus lost his arm, and the flagpole toppled. At about the time of the renovation of University Hall in 1940, President Wriston approached Mary Elizabeth Sharpe, whose beautifully landscaped home at 84 Prospect Street (now Rochambeau House) he admired, and asked her help with new planting plans. She created a master plan and was for thirty years actively involved in the landscaping of the campus.
The building of the two quadrangles in the 1950s, a number of sizable buildings in the 1960s and early 70s, and the expansion of the campus beyond Hope Street with the purchase of the Bryant College campus in 1969, caused aesthetic concern and resentment among local residents, particularly the Providence Preservation Society, which had been monitoring Brown’s encroachment of the the historic East Side since the building of the quadrangles. A landmark disappeared from the Brown campus in the fall of 1969 when the house once occupied by Howard Phillips Lovecraft, writer of weird tales, at 66 College Street was moved to 65 Prospect Street.
A master plan setting guidelines for ten years of growth of the physical plant of the University was drawn up by Sasaki, Walker and Associates, Inc. in 1963. In a five-year plan written by the Office of Institutional Research in 1974, the University affirmed its intention of non-expansion of land area and its policy of intensifying usage of already acquired property.
The elms on the campus, which had given to the Class Day exercises the name of “Under the Elms,” were stricken by Dutch Elm disease about 1970. An anonymous donor gave money to help by planting 25 disease-resistance elms on the front and middle campus, and an intravenous treatment to save the old elms was begun.
On the east side of Carrie Tower two stone benches, the gift of the Class of 1924, flank the brick walk to the door of the tower. At its class reunion in 1981 the Class of 1926 dedicated its class memorial, a spot in back of Sayles Hall with redwood benches among the trees and shrubs which surround a bronze plaque inscribed, “The Happiest Moments of Life’s Fleeting Hours ... Class of 1926.” The walks on either side of Sayles Hall were named the “Swearer Walkways” at a surprise gathering on the Middle Campus on November 9, 1988, to which an unsuspecting President Howard Swearer, soon to leave Brown, and his wife, Janet, were led by the Brown Bear and a portion of the Brown Band. In the spring of 1990 there were added stone benches flanking the walkway and inscribed “Sede, viator, et recreare, dum recordaris Swearers, Howard and Jan.” The Manning Walk, which joins the Geo-Chem building with the CIT building and the Sciences Library, was laid out in the spring of 1990. The project, which includes a sculpture by Yugoslavian artist Dusan Dzamonja, was a gift of Artemis Joukowsky ’55.
The Pembroke Campus began with the acquisition in 1895 of land on Meeting Street from the estate of John Wilson Smith. On this land Pembroke Hall was erected in 1897 and Sayles Gymnasium in 1907. The Class of 1900 erected a gate on the south side of Cushing Street near Sayles Gym in memory of their classmate Josephine Scholfield, who died in September 1900. The gate was later moved to Bowen Street in back of Andrews Hall. In addition to the land acquired from Stephen O. Metcalf, in 1915 more land on Cushing Street was added by the purchase of houses, three of which were torn done, one at 123 Cushing Street fitted for rental, and one at 98 Cushing Street turned into a cooperative dormitory for the Women’s College. Dormitories were built north of Cushing Street, and the social hall, Alumnae Hall, was built to the east of Sayles Gym. The Pembroke athletic field was acquired through the bequest of Charles T. Aldrich 1877 and Henry L. Aldrich 1876 of their estate which occupied the block bordered by Meeting, Hope, Cushing and Brook Streets. The Aldrich residence was torn down and the field was in use in the fall of 1936. The G1940 for future development to the north of Alumnae Hall. The Pembroke College property was extended to the east, and the dormitory quadrangle of Champlin and Morriss Halls and Emery and Woolley Halls were built in the early 1960s and New Pembroke was built on Thayer Street in 1974.
The East Campus was the former campus of Bryant College, which was purchased in 1969. The present Brown campus occupies 139 acres and contains 219 buildings, of which 159 are devoted to the activities of the University and the remainder are rental property.
The earliest view of the campus is a print entitled “A S.W. View of the COLLEGE in Providence, together with the PRESIDENT’S HOUSE & GARDENS,” which was drawn by David Leonard 1792 and engraved by Samuel Hill of Boston. Leonard depicted the College at the time when he was a student, as it would have appeared to George Washington when he visited in 1790. Shown are the College Edifice (now University Hall) with its original cupola and balustrade and two lightning rods, the president’s two-story house standing near the present location of Carrie Tower, the College well, and the stone wall which is probably the one which the Corporation records for 1777 note was built by President Manning.
In a lithograph from the 1820s the campus which now included Hope College and University Hall is shown from the northwest. The back of the president’s house is shown, along with the stone wall on the north side of the campus and the Lombardy poplars planted in 1803. The lithograph drawn by James Kidder was published by the Senefelder Lithographic Company of Boston, a branch of the Annin and Smith engraving establishment. The company’s first lithographs appeared about 1828.
An engraving of the campus in the 1850s, depicting Hope College, Manning Hall, University Hall, and Rhode Island Hall surrounded by a wooden fence, by J. C. Thompson, delineator, and F. O. Freeman, engraver, was printed by Wilson and Daniels, printers in Boston. Of this print William A. Mowry 1858 wrote to President Faunce in 1914, “In 1857 to 1860 and after I was the editor and publisher of ‘The R. I. Schoolmaster,’ I had the steel engraving of four buildings made at a cost of $50.00 and published it with a historical sketch of the College in ... the Schoolmaster for Jan. 1858.... I had a photograph taken, but the trees and foliage so hid the buildings that I employed an artist to sketch the four, omitting most of the trees. The engraver in Boston used both photograph and drawing.”
In 1908 the firm of Woodbury-Carlton of Worcester, Massachusetts, made a view of the University from a wash drawing done by John C. Woodbury, founder of the firm. The view appeared as a tail piece in Memories of Brown, published in 1909, where the name of the firm was incorrectly given as “Woodbury-Clayton.” The “bird’s eye” view includes the buildings of the University clearly outlined amid the dimly sketched and tree shrouded buildings not belonging to Brown. The wash drawing was given to the University by Woodbury’s son in 1947.
Artist Richard Rummel of New York made an etching in 1908, which was very similar to and may have been copied from the Woodbury drawing. One important difference is the inclusion of the John Hay Library, which must have been done from the architect’s drawing, as the library was not completed until two years after the copyrightof college views for Klackner and Company of New York.
The “Appleby Etchings” were a set of five etchings by a young Scottish etcher, Wilfred C. Appleby, commissioned and published by Tilden-Thurber Company in 1927. The five views, from the Van Wickle Gates through the campus to the Soldiers Memorial Gate, had the University seal in the lower corner of each plate.
On the subject of campus views, it should be noted that the College Edifice was a popular subject for the samplers made by young school girls in Providence. Three such works are owned by the University. One by Clarissa Daggett done in November 1799 is of University Hall only. Another by Ann Macomber shows University Hall and a house, which may be the president’s house, although it differs from the actual house. Abigail Adams Hobart, whose brother, Aaron was in the Class of 1805, completed in June 1802, in the tenth year of her age, a sampler which depicts University Hall (which is identified as “Providence College”), the president’s house and two other buildings.