400 S. Locust St.
Greencastle, Indiana 46135
As early as 1861 President Thomas Bowman had proposed that Greencastle and the Indiana Methodist Conferences raise $60,000 for a new college building, but the outbreak of war forced postponement of the project. In 1865, however, Professor Tingley began contacting architects, and the next year the trustees asked Greencastle and Putnam County residents to contribute $30,000, to which they themselves would add another $30,000. A Belgian-born architect, Josse A. Vrydagh of Terre Haute, was chosen to design the structure, which was estimated to cost $80,000.
After considerable discussion the decision was made to build on the vacant lot east of the Edifice across Ephraim Street-now College Avenue-and to proceed with construction as funds became available. On October 20, 1870, the cornerstone was laid in the presence of about 3,000 people, many of whom came from a state Methodist convention in Indianapolis on eight special coaches, courtesy of the Vandalia and St. Louis Railroad. Former Professor Cyrus Nutt led in prayer, and President Bowman and pioneer Methodist preacher Aaron Wood both spoke on the occasion.
It took a year to complete the unenclosed first story. The slow pace of construction, which was dependent upon the availability of funds, was a source of general discouragement. Eventually help came in the form of a contribution of $10,000 from Jesse Meharry (who had once proposed that the university be moved to a location on his Tippecanoe County farm) and a subsequent pledge from Washington C. DePauw to complete the exterior, furnish the chapel, and landscape the grounds. By June 1874 the building was far enough along to hold Commencement ceremonies in the chapel. In the fall of 1875 college classes met for the first time in the new structure, though the basement was still unfinished and the chapel and classrooms lacked suitable furnishings. The building was officially dedicated at Commencement in 1877, with an address by President Martin and prayers by former presidents Curry and Andrus; Simpson and Bowman sent regrets. A temporary system of arc-lights was set up in the chapel for the occasion, but they proved so noisy that they were later replaced by coal-oil lamps. Five more years were to pass before the building’s heating problems were finally solved and the basement completed.
The name East College came from a resolution found in the faculty minutes for 1879 offered by professor Edwin Post, who also proposed that the Edifice be called West College. The completed East College was a truly monumental structure, with its Gothic arches, French mansard roof, and Italianate columns. A large tower contained a clock donated by Greencastle citizens and a great bell given by the graduating class of 1879. In the smaller tower a refracting telescope for celestial observation was installed. Inside the main feature was the spacious second-floor Meharry Chapel, named for Jesse Meharry’s wife Jane. Beside it was the president’s office, the only room furnished with a fireplace. Each professor had his own classroom, and some departments had attached library rooms, while the chemistry laboratory occupied the basement. Almost everywhere, on classroom doors and in the hallways, were the names of important donors.