By 1879, Taylor had begun to give physical shape to his idea for a woman's college. He actively involved himself in the planning of both practical and conceptual aspects of the new institution, including the selection of a site, an architect, and a landscape designer. Among the practical considerations for the final site selection were the location's healthfulness and proximity to the railroad, Haverford College, and Philadelphia. The original campus, a small segment of the Thomas-Humphries Tract and part of a larger property deeded by William Penn to Edward Pritchard and Co. in 1682, comprised thirty-two acres between Merion, Roberts, Gulph and Yarrow roads.
Taylor engaged the Philadelphia architect Addison Hutton to design the College's
first buildings, a general administration, classroom, and library building and
a dormitory. These two buildings, named Taylor and Merion respectively, had
not yet been completed in 1881, as evidenced by their somewhat inaccurate footprints
and the incorrect location of Merion, shown here on a detailed
property map of the Bryn Mawr area, published that same year.
Calvert Vaux (1824-1895), renowned architect, landscape architect and one-time partner of both Andrew Jackson Downing and Frederick Law Olmsted, figured prominently in the first group of designers and architects assembled to plan the Bryn Mawr College buildings and grounds. Hired by the College in 1882, he developed several preliminary sketches, arriving at a final version of his original campus plan in 1884.
When the Bryn Mawr College Board of Trustees approved Vaux's general plan for the campus in 1884, the only buildings then in existence were Taylor and Merion Halls; a small gymnasium, on the same site as the present structure; an old farm house, now torn down; and three small Victorian houses. These last three became known as the Deanery, so-named as the house of M. Carey Thomas, the first Dean of the College, the Betweenery, and the Greenery, the latter two moved to Wyndon Avenue in the early nineteen hundreds and renamed Yarrow East and West.
organic layout called for delicately curving roads and paths to be entwined
around this small centralized grouping of buildings in a manner that seems to
presage the emergence of the Art Nouveau style. In a similar approach to that
taken earlier when designing parks with Olmsted, he also planned for the borders
of the campus to be heavily planted, to screen out the surrounding properties.
An issue of particular concern to Vaux was the design and placement of a gateway to the College. According to his October 10, 1884 letter to then-President Rhoads, this secondary entrance "should be emphasized in relation to the design for the main entrance which ought to be settled on soon." Subsequently, the Board decided that the main entrance would be located at the corner of Merion and Yarrow, on the site of the present-day Rockefeller Arch. It was also decided that, per Vaux's suggestion, the two gateways-the second one diagrammed in Vaux's letter to be located on Merion in line with Taylor Hall and opposite Lombaert Avenue - would be similar in design. The design, as seen here in a photograph of the main entrance, was developed by the College's architect at that time, Addison Hutton.
As it happened, very little of Vaux's plan was ever implemented. It was not until Frederick Law Olmsted's visit to Bryn Mawr College in 1895 and subsequent involvement in the planning process - both at the request of M. Carey Thomas, who became President in 1894 - that a more comprehensive study was made of the campus. According to Charles E. Beveridge, associate editor of the Olmsted Papers, this was because "there was little for Vaux to design in 1883 or 1884, and neither money nor inclination to have him provide in any detail for the future expansion of the college." But the College's attitude toward such matters would change substantially under Thomas's direction.
Bryn Mawr College Library Special Collections. September 21 - December 20, 2001