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Water Features on Campus: Home

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Water Features on Campus

Sylvan Pond was originally a spring-fed lake in a different location (about where the Campus Center is currently located). The spring occasionally received reference in the Speculum, such as in 1922 when the calendar notes that Esther Curry trips during a cookout by the canal and falls into the water. There were also some references to skating, which may have taken place on the pentagonal lake. A reference to the lake as the “ol’ swimming hole” suggests that several student activities took place here. A small gazebo sat on the lake’s western shore. Starting in 1922 this lake was the location of certain May Day activities, including the ponding – the throwing of a student into Sylvan Lake/Pond to denote a special event like a birthday – of the May King, a male student (usually a senior) known for being a class clown. This practice, also known as the May Night Farce, may have been the start of the ponding tradition. The lake had enough of a part in students’ lives to inspire Donald Kinsley, class of ’28, to write a poem about it which was included in the 1927 The Scriptus. In 1952, the Albrightian referenced a custom of throwing freshman customs leaders into Selwyn Pond and the species of fish that lived in said pond, though the article seems somewhat humorous, as the fish are alternately called trout, goldfish, carp, and Carpus disinitegratus. Supposedly the pond was once used as a wishing well, and the water was not the cleanest, according to the same article (“Selwyn Pond – Let’s Go Canoeing in It” Albrightian 13 March 1952).

The water also had practical purposes, however. The lake was part of the farm that was originally located on this property. The spring fed a well which was used by people from the area, not just those on the farm. In the early 1900s the well was condemned by the State Health Department.

In front of what is now the Administration Building, there was a three-tiered fountain. By 1934 there was a second fountain in the Selwyn courtyard. It appears that the three-tiered fountain was replaced in 1949 by a two-tiered fountain before being removed completely in the 1950s. The lake and pond also had various fountains through the years when a fountain was present. Some fountain decorations include a “natural” rock base, a geometric block base, a child riding a swan (courtesy of the class of 1918), and a simple pipe with water arching out around it.

On September 18th, 1942 the Sylvan springhouse became the Sylvan Chapel at the urging of Professor Lewis E. Smith. At this time, it was under the sponsorship of the Y.M.C.A and Y.W.C.A. (Letter to Mrs. Pfeiffer from Dr. Klein September 24th 1942). During World War II it was determined that students and staff needed another place for religious devotion and the springhouse was settled upon as the best option, with room for about thirty people. This was not the first chapel on campus. At least two other chapels had been in the vicinity at one point: the first at the corner of Selwyn Hall and the second being White Chapel, which was located immediately to the right of Sylvan Chapel until 2015. The original pulpit and pews from the Jacob Albright Memorial Chapel in Kleinfeltersville were used in the new Sylvan Chapel. During this time, water from the spring that feeds Sylvan Pond was used by the Reading Company for their steam locomotives. In 1959, the railroad had no more use for the water and legally removed their claim to it. The last May Day celebration was in 1962.

Renovations in 2007 were made possible by a large donation from Rosemarie Machmer, class of ’49 in memory of her husband, Chris Machmer, class of ’47. Classes 2003, 2004, 2006, and 2007 raised money to repave the surrounding walkways. Graduating seniors who purchased pavestones have their names inscribed on the stones. The new pond renovations removed piping and minimized the size of the central fountain feature in order to make birthday pondings safer for students. The chapel and pond are still used today for several events. Alpha Sigma Pi started hosting their annual Pond-a-Thon in 2006 and WXAC began their Pond-a-Palooza Concert Series in 2012. It is possible to have a wedding in Sylvan Chapel as well, though the chapel size is now listed as seating twelve instead of thirty, with the pond listed as having room for up to one hundred people.