The Competition's Aftermath
When insufficient funds stopped Hornbostel and Bennett’s winning design for an art center from becoming a reality, Seaver found it difficult to hide her disappointment. President J. Edgar Park, who had supported Seaver’s Modernist impulses, retired in 1944. His successor President A. Howard Meneely advocated for a more traditional architectural style for future construction on the campus. When Seaver heard of the Trustees’ support for Meneely’s plans, she resigned on January 1, 1946, claiming that the rules of the competition clearly stated that if the art center was ever built the winning architects would design it. Eventually, Seaver’s dream triumphed: during his tenure at Wheaton, President Meneely oversaw the construction of numerous International Style buildings on Lower Campus, including the Humanities Building, which now bears his name: Meneely Hall.
-Jessie Landau, Class of 2009
Ruth Hornbostel, wife of the architect Caleb Hornbostel, wrote this letter to Esther Seaver shortly after the art center controversy broke, revealing not only their close relationship, but also the agitation felt by Seaver’s friends. Dismayed at President Meneely’s decision that future building would be in the traditional style, Hornbostel and Bennett began to blame each other for the College’s decision. This letter also indicates (on page 2) that President Park had not wanted a contemporary design for the Student Alumnae Building. We may speculate that it was Esther Seaver who convinced him to commission Hornbostel and Bennett for that project.
-Zephorene L. Stickney
This long telegram, sent by architect Margaret King Hunter to the editors of the Wheaton News, made public the Wheaton Board of Trustees’ decision that future construction would be in the traditional style, suggesting that the college had turned its back on Modern architecture. Students were outraged and held several mass meetings on the subject, at which Hunter and President Meneely spoke. “Free Speech” was a regular page-two editorial column in the News; by placing it on page one, the editors enraged many faculty members as well as President Meneely. Because the News was so widely read by alumnae, it prompted a flood of angry complaints. To each of these President Meneely patiently responded that the Trustees had not been discussing the art center because no funding was available for the project.
-Zephorene L. Stickney