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A Guide To Its Present And Past
Compiled and Written by the Federal Writers' Project of the Works Progress Administration for the State of New Jersey
American Guide Series

Originally published in 1939
Some of this information may no longer be current and in that case is presented for historical interest only.

Edited by GET NJ, COPYRIGHT 2003
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The buildings of Stevens Institute climb up the southern slope of Castle Point. With the single exception of the Castle, they are dark reddish brown structures, undistinguished architecturally, and for the most part clustered together off the campus lawns.

When Col. John Stevens was in the midst of his experimental work he conceived the idea for an "academy for the training of the young." But it was his son Edwin who carried out the plan after recouping much of the fortune lost by his inventive father. In 1867 the younger Stevens willed $150,000 for erection of a building and $500,000 as an endowment.

Four years later Stevens Institute was opened. Of the 21 students who enrolled the first year, one was graduted in 1873. The first faculty was headed by Dr. Henry Morton, formerly secretary of Philadelphia's Franklin Institute. With him were a group of outstanding scientists of the day.

In 1902, when Dr. Morton died, the presidency of the college was taken over by Alexander Crombie Humphreys. During the quarter-century of President Humphrey's tenure, Stevens experienced its greatest growth. Under the present administration of Dr. Harvey Nathaniel Davis, two new dormitories were constructed in 1937.

The only degree offered to the approximately 500 students, who may receive training in all branches of engineering, is that of Mechanical Engineer. Stevens is the only engineering school in the country with this system. The Institute maintains a summer engineering camp of 375 acres at Johnsonburg (see Tour 5), where six weeks of actual field practice are given in the open country.

All campus buildings are open on weekdays, except as noted.

  1. The ADMINISTRATION BUILDING, 5th St. between River and Hudson Sts., known to students and alumni as "The Old Stone Mill," is a three-story brownstone structure with a mansard roof. In the center of the building, a four-story square tower rises above the plain wooden doorway, flanked by small Corinthian columns. This was the original home of the Institute. Its ivy-covered walls distinguish it from the other buildings on the 30-acre campus. Formerly it housed all departments of instruction, but today it contains only the administration offices and the departments of physics, machine design and shop practice. The auditorium, scene of the founding of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers in 188o, has been equipped for sound and lighting by thestudents.

  2. The LIBRARY BUILDING, SE. corner Hudson and 6th Sts., is a 1 simple, three-story red-brick building. Facing 6th St. is a severe classic doorway flanked by wrought-iron lamps, the entrance to the LIEB MEMORIAL (open on application to librarian). The library contains the Leonardo da Vinci collection of more than 1,000 items, including a complete set of reproductions of the da Vinci manuscripts and books on da Vinci in French, English, German, and Italian. A collection of Stevens papers is also preserved, among them the 1803 patent for the first tubular boiler and the prophetic Documents to Prove the Advantages of Railways and Steam Carriages over Canal Navigation, a pamphlet written in 1812 when Colonel Stevens was trying to persuade New York authorities to sponsor a rail- road rather than the proposed Erie Canal.

  3. The GATEHOUSE (private), E. end 6th St., was originally the entrance to Colonel Stevens' house. The gate and the gatehouse are built of serpentine rock, greenish-yellow stone of peculiar appearance. A small octagonal tower divides three smaller gates from the main gate which ad joins a larger tower, also octagonal.

  4. The WILLIAM HALL WALKER GYMNASIUM is in an ornate, three-story oval building of old red brick at the center of the campus grounds . The gymnasium, with its surrounding balcony, occupies the second and third floofs. In the basement is a tile swimming pool.

  5. STEVENS CASTLE On Castle Point, overlooking the Hudson, stands Stevens Castle, a spacious, three-story drab stucco building with a four-story watchtower facing the river. The building, constructed in 1853 as the home of John C. Stevens, is a students' dormitory. Cleverly hidden behind a panel in the basement is the entrance to an old tunnel that led down through the cliff to the river road. There was much secrecy connected with the tunnel. Old residents say that it was dug before the erection of Stevens Castle, perhaps during the Revolutionary War. Or it may have been designed by Colonel Stevens at the time he was drawing plans for his contemplated vehicular tunnel under the Hudson. That Stevens should have made such a tunnel is not improbable; he was noted for extravagant experiments and absorption in his work. Once, when lying in bed with no paper at hand, he began to sketch the idea for a new machine on the back of his wife's nightgown. He asked her if she knew the figure he was drawing. "Yes," she answered, "the figure of a fool."

    Fronting the river at the Point is the narrow strip of greenery comprising HUDSON PARK, a favorite rendezvous for strollers.

  6. The NAVY BUILDING, SE. corner River and 6th Sts., a long, three-story, nondescript building of red brick, houses laboratories and classrooms for the departments of civil and electrical engineering, the general alumni office and the MUSEUM (open 12-5 Wed. and by appointment). The exhibits on the first floor indicate the development of mechanical locomotion. Early bicycles, automobiles and trucks are shown; airplane propellers and motors; gasoline engines and one of the earliest steam turbines. On display, too, are the motors used in the Selden patent suit, when Henry Ford's claim as the inventor was contested; the first Ford car, built in 1899 and used as evidence of infringement in the litigation; and the "Selden Buggy," really a buggy with the shafts removed and an engine suspended over the front axle. Steam engines of various types, a section of the wooden water main of Aaron Burr's Manhattan Co. which was laid in 1799-1800, and many other mechanical and electrical devices are in the museum. The building also houses the EXPERIMENTAL TOWING TANK, a long tank about three feet deep filled with water. Boat models are towed from one end to the other by motors in efficiency experiments.


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