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Early College Buildings: Home

Welcome to Albright College's Past






Selwyn Hall Ex-Colonial Manor; Campus Once On Phila. Highway

Increasing emphasis on the "exodus' has focused attention on the buildings on campus. Their status has been rehashed constantly; their past, until now, has been obscured.

Sylvan Chapel was the first building on the Albright campus. the  present chapel was originally built in pre-Revolutionary days in the then wilderness of the woods of Mt. Penn. This pioneer home was constructed without a level or foot rule, as is clearly shown by the windows which are not directly across from one another and are not of the same size. The doorway was made very large, for at that time all furniture was dragged into the house through the door. This landmark of Albright had a modern advantage of water within the home, for it was built directly over a spring. Later, when Sherman Cottage was used as a farmhouse, this old one room house served ideally as a stone spring house. Still later it was used as a school room for the Muhlenberg children. Today Sylvan Chapel continues its long life of service as a part of Albright Campus.

Sherman Cottage, originally of stone, was built shortly after the Revolutionary War. At that time the old road from Philadelphia crossed campus and it is possible that the same driveway entrance which we now use was a part of this old road. It is known that Benjamin Franklin used this road and it is believed that William Penn also traveled over it. Sherman Cottage was a colonial farm house with two rooms on the first floor and two rooms on the second. A lean-to kitchen was at one time used. The first floor originally had two fireplaces, and the room now occupied by Professor Florence V. Innis was formerly the parlor. The present living room was the combined kitchen and dining room with a huge fireplace in which the cooking was done and long handled kettles were hung. In 1920 the present kitchen was added to Sherman Cottage. This is the only addition ever made to the building. The barn accompanying the old farm home was built on what is now college property.

In the fall of 1834, Jonathan Deininger married Marry Elizabeth Hiester Muhlenberg, daughter of Henry Muhlenberg, who was ambassador to Austria in 1838. They spent two years abroad on a wedding trip, most of the time in Dresden, Saxony. After returning in the summer of 1836 they started operations to build their new home, now Selwyn Hall; they moved into Selwyn Hall late in the fall of 1836. a portrait of this couple, until recently, hung in Selwyn Parlors. Mrs. Deininger died in 1838 when her second child was born.

Selwyn Hall was one of the most elaborate colonial estates. Then the closest buildings were on Ninth Street. The trees in front of the mansion were planted in a double row  so that a driveway went past the house. The solid walnut pillars standing at Selwyn Hall are the originals. The old hitching post is still in front of the hall. The old fashioned lock, stairway, and many of the first doors are still being used. The Library is now situated where formerly was the stable for riding horses.

The floor plan of Selwyn Hall, however, has been changed.

Original first floor plan:

Now--Entrance and hallway.

Then--The same.

Selwyn Parlors--Two bedrooms,each with its own coal burning fireplace.

Music studio--Two bedrooms.

Hallway, kitchen, and instrument rooms--Large library (its corner is now marked by the beam to the right of present hallway).

Prof. Lewis Smith and Coach Eva Mosser's offices--Sunparlor, downstairs and upstairs.

Faculty dining room and kitchen.

Pantry, kitchen and laundry.

Original Second Floor Plan

Infirmary--Four bedroooms.

First two rooms and lavatory on the left of the hallway--Master Bedroom.

Other rooms in Selwyn Hall--Servants quarters.

Three bathrooms were included in this plan.


Source: The Albrightian, March 5, 1943