Friday Feature: a new photo of the finial

Weatherford Hall – New Photo of the Tower Finial! Super student researcher Mike Dicianna has given us another fun post about OSU history.

One of the most iconic buildings on the Oregon State campus is Weatherford Hall. Completed in 1928 as part of a massive building program began by Oregon Agricultural College President William Jasper Kerr, the new dormitory would house 344 male students for the growing institution. The newly completed building cost $460,000 – including furnishings! The university financed the huge project by means of a bond issue that was retired gradually with usage fees paid by the men who lived in the dorm. The residence hall wings were named after Austin T. Buxton, Daniel V. Poling, Thomas J. Cauthorn, and Curtis L. Hawley. From the beginning, the men of these dorms were known as “independents,” that is not affiliated with the fraternities on campus. Watch a video history of this picturesque building on YouTube.

Weatherford Hall served as a dormitory and focal point for the university for many years, but time was not kind to the stately building. Leaks destroyed plaster in the interior, wiring and plumbing became dated and dangerous, and the building was deemed unsafe. The dorm closed at the end of the 1993-94 school year. In 1997, a renovation of the historic dorm was planned, and Weatherford reopened in 2004 as the new home of the Austin Entrepreneurship Program.

Recently, a donor called SCARC with a question about a photograph from her grandfather, Lloyd Bonney’s estate with a possible connection with OSU. Nan Harrison, of Springfield, Oregon described a photograph of her grandfather with the new “copper finial to be placed on the new O.A.C. Dormitory, Corvallis, Ore.” The copper finial was manufactured by Strobel & Miller Metal Works, of Eugene, Oregon. Nan agreed to send SCARC the original photograph and negative to include in our collection.

My first thought was it possibly could have been the decoration for the first men’s dorm, Cauthorn Hall (now Fairbanks) dating just before the turn of the century. Upon receiving an initial scan of the photo, I could tell it was later than 1892, but where could this finial have been installed? Searching through SCARC’s collection of historic O.A.C. photographs, the huge copper finial revealed itself! The tower of the new dormitory, Weatherford Hall sported the beautiful creation. The date of the photograph was confirmed as 1928!

This one photograph enhances our collection of Weatherford Hall in a special way. There are a few construction images from 1928, and numerous photos throughout Weatherford’s eighty-five year history, but this individual detail shot of the finial is a true find. As a thank you to our donor Nan and her family, I spent some time restoring the old photo digitally. Removing cracks and stains, the original “patina” of the photograph was retained, and a high resolution copy was made available to the family.

Sometimes it is the small things that excite an archivist. This single photograph revealed a part of OSU history that has been undocumented in our collections. Weatherford Hall was built exclusively by Oregon sub-contractors during 1928, something the Architect firm of Bennes & Herzog was proud to feature. And now, through this donation of a single photograph, the firm of Strobel & Miller of Eugene can be documented as part of this achievement. The photograph is available for researchers in Harriet’s Collection (HC), at OSU Special Collections & Archive Research Center.

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