Tag Archive for wesleyan history

Eclectic House Joins National, State Historic Registries

On Nov. 2, members of the Wesleyan community gathered at the Eclectic House to celebrate the building being named to the National Register of Historic Places and State of Connecticut Historic Registries.

The Eclectic House, located at 200 High Street, was built in 1906 and formally dedicated in 1907. It was designed by Henry Bacon, who also designed the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C., as well as Olin Library and several other prominent buildings and spaces at Wesleyan.

The National Park Service’s National Register of Historic Places is the official list of the nation’s historic places worthy of preservation. Authorized by the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966, the Register is part of a national program to coordinate and support public and private efforts to identify, evaluate, and protect America’s historic and archeological resources. The State Register of Historic Places is Connecticut’s official listing of structures and sites that characterize the historical development of the state.

Eclectic is a coeducational society of resident and associate members committed to the promotion of independent thinking and creative expression. Members plan, host and staff a variety of events that aim to instill a stronger sense of community among Wesleyan students and faculty.

Eclectic’s artistic endeavors in visual art, music, film and more meld the depth of academia with the freedom and ingenuity of youthful expression in order to provide a safe and exciting space for certain students who may not find themselves elsewhere on campus. Eclectic’s members are also committed to the preservation of the architectural and structural integrity of Eclectic House.

The Eclectic House was listed to the National Register of Historic Places in January 2013.

Wesleyan’s Alsop House also was designated a national historic landmark in 2009; Psi Upsilon, located at 242 High Street, was designated in 2009; and the Russell House was designated in 1970.

Photos of the dedication ceremony are below (Photos by John Van Vlack):


Schatz’s “Barons of Middletown” Published in Historical Journal

Ron Schatz, professor of history, tutor in the College of Social Studies, wrote an article on Middletown that was recently published in Past & Present, a prestigious English historical journal.

The article, “The Barons of Middletown and the Decline of the North-Eastern Anglo-Protestant Elite,” appeared in the March 2013 issue. Schatz uses the story of the transformation of the leadership of the city since the early 20th century as a microcosm of the United States during the past century. Wesleyan is mentioned several times in the 36-page article, including when President Franklin Delano Roosevelt visited Middletown in 1936.

“Although quite liberal today, Wesleyan University was not friendly territory for liberal politicians back then. A chemistry professor chaired Middletown’s Republican Party Committee, the university’s president James McConaughy sat on the Connecticut State Republican Party’s central committee, and the bulk of the students favoured the Grand Old Party. According to a straw poll taken by the college paper three days before Roosevelt’s visit, Wesleyan students favoured [Alf] Landon over FDR by nearly three to one,” Schatz wrote in the article.

“The research required a great deal of work but was a lot fun too,” Schatz said.

Read the full article online here.

McQueeney’s Pilgrimage Leads Her to a Wesleyan Connection

Kris McQueeney, administrative assistant in the Theater Department, holds a silver scallop which she acquired in Santiago de Compostela, Spain.

During a 100 kilometer pilgrimage across Spain in June 2010, Kristin McQueeney purchased a silver scallop shell slide to wear on her necklace. Little did she know that shell carried a coincidental Wesleyan connection.

Wesleyan's crest, featuring five scallops, was adopted from the John Wesley family's coat of arms. Wesley was a descendent of the Wellysleye/Wellesley family.

The scallop, which represents the pilgrimage across Europe to Santiago de Compostela, also appears on the Wesleyan crest.

According to Valerie Gillispie, assistant university archivist, the Wesleyan crest is based on the Methodist founder John Wesley’s family coat-of-arms. Wesley was a descendent of the Wellysleye/Wellesley family, whose crest bears a cross decorated with five scallop shells.

“Those who made pilgrimages across Europe, or from the port to the holy land or to Rome, could wear the scallop shell as a medallion of honor, or have it displayed on their shield.  The Wesley’s apparently were so eligible,” says John Driscoll, alumni director.

The Wesleyan crest is almost 60 years old. In the early 1950s, the Chicago Alumni Club hoped to secure a place for a coat of arms in the club’s gothic “great hall.” Prominent Wesleyan alumni Daniel Woodhead ’34 and John Baird ’38 reserved “the last and most prestigious spot” over the fireplace – however, they ran into one problem.

“Wesleyan had no coat of arms nor heraldic shield. We had a side visage of John Wesley, but not coat of arms,” he says.

So, the alumni, with the blessing of President Victor L. Butterfield, contracted with the Newbury Library in Chicago to have the research done into the history of the John Wesley. In 1953, Butterfield approved the shield design, which is used today.

The Wesleyan University crest.

McQueeney, administrative assistant in the Theater Department, began her walk in Sarria, Spain and walked to Portomarin, then Melide, then Rua, and finally into Santiago de Compostela in 4 and 1/2 days. She purchased the scallop in Santiago.

“I knew that the scallop shell was the symbol of the pilgrimage; however, didn’t know of any Wesleyan connection until John mentioned it to me during a recent conversation,” McQueeney says. “My reaction was, ‘wow that’s cool. I had no idea.'”

McQueeney walked her second pilgrimage this summer in Rome, Italy.