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Geneva College District

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1880–present. College Ave.
  • Geneva College District (PHLF)
  • Geneva College District (PHLF)

Geneva College, a Christian, coeducational college of 1,500 students, occupies a wooded fifty-five-acre campus on a bluff overlooking the Beaver River. Founded in 1848 by the Reformed Presbyterian Church in Northwood, Ohio, the college moved to Beaver Falls in 1880 at the invitation of the Harmony Society, which donated ten acres in their effort to reinvigorate the town. The college's buildings were built with a $20,000 donation from the community.

Old Main (1879–1881, James P. Bailey for Bailey and Anglin), the dominant landmark of the college, is constructed of native gray sandstone quarried on the site. The facade features a central bell tower, gabled dormers, and alternating projecting and recessed wall planes, which give it a lively quality. A handsome three-bay entrance loggia on the principal elevation of the T-shaped three-story building is supported by columns with foliated capitals. The many pointed-arched or gabled windows on all elevations, the bracketed eaves, and the mansard roof draw attention upward to the roofline. Stylistically, Old Main is similar to a large number of college administration buildings of the era, which could be called “Collegiate Second Empire.” “Fern Cliffe” (1879–1880) is a fine example of domestic Second Empire styling in wood, built for John L. McCartney, a professor of natural philosophy. The facade is dominated by a pentagonal bay with a bracketed mansard roof. A four-bay porch shelters the main entrance, and another wooden porch covers the northwest corner.

At the base of the hill, along the Beaver River, a small railroad station for the P&LE was designed by architect Joseph Ladd Neal of Pittsburgh and railroad engineer John Abiel Atwood in 1910. Named College Station, the two-story brick building with a seven-foot-wide canopy has been owned by the college since 1997.

W. G. Eckles Company Architects of New Castle designed four buildings for the campus. These include the two-story, red brick Johnston Gymnasium (1911) that is distinguished by a central projecting entrance bay, hipped roof, and tripartite segmental-arched windows. McKee Hall (1919–1921) is constructed of randomly coursed fieldstone, with tall exterior end chimneys at both gable ends. Its tiled roofline is broken by hipped-roof dormers and windows with stone surrounds on all three stories over the central entrance. The firm designed the Reeves Field south of Old Main and the two entrance pavilions along College Avenue (1923). The final campus building designed by Eckles is McCartney Library (1930–1931). Its L-shaped plan is highlighted by a square, three-story bell tower with lancet windows and stone coping defining the flat roofline. The stonework is similar to that of Old Main. The library's reading rooms have large stained glass windows by Henry Lee Willet that tell the stories of Pilgrim's Progress and Paradise Lost. Willet's other work includes windows for the chapel at West Point and the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C.

The Eckles firm also designed the nearby College Hill Reformed Presbyterian Church (1924; 3217 College Avenue), which, while not technically part of Geneva College, is located on a raised terrace west of the McCartney Library and complements the campus buildings of that era. The sandstone Gothic Revival church has a large stained glass window above the double entrance doors, stone coping and capstones defining the buttresses, and gable ends.

In 1953, Ezra C. Stiles (1891–1974), a landscape architect from Pittsburgh, drew up a campus master plan. While all of his recommendations were not implemented, it is an unusual document, since most of Stiles's work was either residential or for municipal parks, cemeteries, and schools. A preservation plan of 2007 prepared by the Pittsburgh History and Landmarks Foundation and the college recommends National Register listing for the core campus.

Among the several postwar buildings is Memorial Hall (1951–1952), which emulates McKee Hall, although without the chimneys and elaborate ornamentation of the earlier structure. It was designed by Arthur L. Martsolf (1895–1958) and his son, Louis G. Martsolf. Later, Beaver Falls architect Joseph F. Bontempo designed three buildings for the campus: the Metheny Field House (1961; 1989 addition), Pearce Hall (1961), and Clarke Hall (1961). Alexander Hall (1971, Carl G. Baker and Associates) provided a flat-roofed dining hall in the brick and concrete materials popular at the time. All these buildings were upgraded in the 1990s.

Writing Credits

Lu Donnelly et al.


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Lu Donnelly et al., "Geneva College District", [Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania], SAH Archipedia, eds. Gabrielle Esperdy and Karen Kingsley, Charlottesville: UVaP, 2012—,

Print Source

Cover: Buildings of PA vol 1

Buildings of Pennsylvania: Pittsburgh and Western Pennsylvania, Lu Donnelly, H. David Brumble IV, and Franklin Toker. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2010, 151-153.

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