Free Walking Tours of Historic Vassar College Architecture to Continue on October 8

POUGHKEEPSIE, NY — Free walking tours of the historic Vassar College architecture, led by longtime professor of English Colton Johnson, will be held on Saturday, October 8, at 11:00 a.m. and 1:00 p.m., beginning at the entrance to the college's Main Building. The 90-minute tours will explore the range of the 140-year-old campus, home to the work of such renowned architects as Francis R. Allen, Eero Saarinen, Marcel Breuer, and Cesar Pelli. To sign up for one of the tours, or for more information, call the Office of College Relations at 845-437-7400, or e-mail Martha Morrison. The college is located on Raymond Avenue in the Town of Poughkeepsie, and further directions are available at

Vassar College embarked on an ambitious architectural enterprise from its very founding in 1861. In fact, by the time the college opened in 1865, its central academic and residential facility, the new Main Building, designed by James Renwick, Jr., was the nation's largest building. In the succeeding years, a thoughtful integration of landscape and structural design has steadily transformed the former Dutchess County Racetrack grounds into one of the most revered academic campuses.

"What could have been more symbolic than to start a college for women and build the largest building in America to house that program," said Vassar alumna Karen Van Lengen, dean of the School of Architecture at the University of Virginia, and co-author of the 2004 book Vassar College: The Campus Guidebook (Princeton Architectural Press).

Significantly, as Vassar has grown it has never relied upon the Second Empire design of its bold Main Building, nor any other predominant architectural style. Unlike many other colleges, "The architecture of Vassar is brilliantly eclectic, a true omnium-gatherum of advanced and fashionable architectural styles from the college's founding to the present day," noted Vassar president Frances Daly Fergusson, an architectural historian, in her foreword to the recent book on the college's architecture. "Vassar, in the college's determination to be always of its time, gave much more stylistic freedom to its architects, asking only that they produce their best."

Vassar College is a highly selective, coeducational, independent, residential, liberal arts college founded in 1861.

Posted by Office of Communications Tuesday, September 27, 2005