Formed from the merger of two African American colleges, Straight College and New Orleans University, Dillard University opened in 1935 on its new sixty-two-acre campus designed by Goldstein. Named in honor of James Hardy Dillard, educator and administrator of funds for African American schools in the South, the university was funded in part by the American Missionary Association, as well as by Edgar and Edith Stern (see OR199; Edith Stern’s father was philanthropist Julius Rosenwald, president of Sears Roebuck, and with Booker T. Washington, helped build thousands of schools for African Americans in the South). According to the architect’s son, Louis Goldstein, his father offered three different designs to Dillard’s board of trustees—Gothic Revival, modern, and classical—and the last was selected. The master scheme for Kearny Hall, a building with columns and a pediment dominating an open-ended court, followed the model of Thomas Jefferson’s design for the University of Virginia. An avenue of oak trees (replanted after Hurricane Katrina) that extends the length of the court from Gentilly Boulevard to Kearny Hall establishes a major axis and formal entrance to the campus. All the original buildings are painted white, with classical details of the simplest kind.
Flooded following Katrina, the campus buildings were restored and several new structures have been added, all of which interpret the campus’s classicism in modern forms, notably in their stylized unornamented entrance colonnades. These include the two-story International Center for Economic Freedom (2006, Davis Brody Bond), the three-story Professional Schools and Sciences Building (2010, Sizeler Thompson Brown Architects), and the Student Union (2010, Campo Architects).
Dillard now owns the parcel facing Gentilly Boulevard that includes a small lagoon, the last remnant of Metairie Bayou, together with the handsome 1920s brick entrance gates and fountain (non-working, with low-relief decoration) that formerly led to the City’s Parkway and Parks office and greenhouses. No efforts have yet been made to integrate these striking features into Dillard’s landscape.