75, And Having Some Work Done

Writer: 
October 1, 2005
Color concept: West Campus, a watercolor by Hughson Hawley, 1930

Color concept: West Campus, a watercolor by Hughson Hawley, 1930.

Duke University Archives

West Campus seems always to have been in a state of construction. It started in 1924 with James B. Duke's endowment to hew from the forest a campus for the new university that bears his family's name. The existing Trinity College, now East Campus, would be transformed into the future Woman's College of Duke University.

To the west, work began on a Gothic-style campus with classrooms, professional schools, a larger library, and dormitories for men. In a 1927 letter to a cousin, Duke student Whit Cotten described campus life amid the construction:

"There is quite a bit of building going on at the present and the campus is all torn up and makes it awfully muddy when it rains.... This campus [East Campus] where we are now will in a few years be for the girls exclusively. The boys school will be begun next fall on a new campus a mile and a half away.... The boys school is to be built of multi-colored granite. All this seems quite the stuff but it doesn't help the present situation very much."

Cotten would graduate before the completion of West Campus. Today, students have experienced similar challenges--an addition to Perkins Library, a wing for the Divinity School, athletics facilities, and numerous research buildings--as the school continues its transition from a regional liberal-arts college to a internationally renowned research university.

An exhibition documenting the construction of West Campus is on display in the Perkins Library lobby through October 2005 in celebration of the campus' 75th anniversary.