Class of 1956 funds restoration of Old Queen's gates
The four gates that command the entranceway to the historic Old Queen’s campus have provided Rutgers a deep-rooted sense of legacy. But they are showing their age, and large sections have fallen into disrepair. Now, thanks to a generous alumni gift, the gates will be restored to their original luster.
The Rutgers Class of 1956, comprised of students in the College of Arts and Sciences, College of Engineering, College of Agriculture, and the then-undergraduate School of Education, raised $776,371, in part to preserve the 100-year-old, wrought-iron gates that frame Old Queen’s. The campus is bounded by Somerset Street, George Street, College Avenue, and Hamilton Street.
The funds cover not only the restoration of the gates but also an overhaul for “William the Silent.” The bronze statue on Voorhees Mall – a replica of one erected in Holland’s Hague museum – has kept a watchful eye on the campus scene for nearly 80 years. “Silent Willie” has recently been cleaned to remove graffiti and transparent tape residue, but conservation efforts are needed to restore bronze casting and granite base.
Elizabeth Reeves, assistant facilities planner, said she was “flabbergasted” to learn of the gift. “I thought that someone might pick up one of these projects; but I never expected a class would pick up all of them!” At a large, public university such as Rutgers, the gates – the oldest of which is the Western Gateway, built in 1901 – are “the image of the institution,” Reeves said. “It is so important that they be maintained for future generations.”
Bob Marguccio, the Class of 1956 reunion chair, said that the reunion committee had been discussing several projects with the Rutgers Foundation, including conservation of the gates, which must be handled delicately to protect their original materials. Refurbishing estimates range from $15,000 to $35,000 per gate.
"The project resonated with our class,” said Marguccio, the former director of the Rutgers Alumni Association. “Restoring the gates is a very visible gift reflective of our days at Rutgers. We liked the idea of preserving a very tangible link to former graduates that would also affect future graduates,” said Marguccio, who retired from Rutgers in 2003.
The gates to be restored are:
Class of 1902 Memorial Gateway: Presented to the university by the Class of 1902, the gateway is on Hamilton Street behind Old Queen's. Each year, graduates from Rutgers College march in a procession through the gateway onto the Voorhees Mall for commencement ceremonies. “The gateway is one of the most frequently photographed structures at Rutgers,” Reeves said. The Class of 1902 created a fund to perpetuate the gate’s beautification with annual dues of $2, and later $5, but the alumni eventually died off.
Henry Rutgers Baldwin (or Western) Gateway: This gateway commands the entrance to the Queen's campus from College Avenue. It was erected in 1901, in honor of the benefactors of Queen's College and Rutgers College. The gates were given in honor of Henry Rutgers Baldwin (Class of 1849), physician and surgeon, and Rutgers trustee from 1884 to 1902.
A project still up for grabs: the fences along Somerset and George streets. The elegant Greek details, as well as the pickets and cross bars, are in need of refurbishing. Estimated cost: $100,000. An appropriately placed plaque will acknowledge the benefactor.
Class of 1883 Memorial Gates: Placed at the principal entrance to the Queen's campus on the corner of George and Somerset streets, these gates were erected in 1904 by the Class of 1883, in commemoration of the 20th anniversary of its graduation. Designed by architect Frederick P. Hill, a member of the class, the gates were redesigned in 1929 under Hill's supervision to adapt to modern taste and traffic conditions.
Class of 1882 Memorial Gateway: This gateway, at the corner of Somerset Street and College Avenue, was presented to Rutgers by the Class of 1882 during its class reunion in 1907. Unique among the gateways, it is constructed of hand-molded brick and brownstone quoins. The flat wrought iron arch is intricately detailed with the class year 1882 embedded in the scrollwork.
The university is preparing a formal preservation plan, and restoration of the gates, beginning with the 1902 and 1883 gateways, will occur in phases over the course of the next few years. Along with preserving the original class plaques, an inscription or plaque in recognition of the Class of 1956 will be added to each gateway.
“We’d like to have the first gateway completed by the time students arrive in the fall,” Reeves said. Although technology has improved dramatically in the last decade, preservation work is still “technically challenging,” she said. Stone requires careful cleaning and repair; wrought iron must be stripped of rust, sanded, repaired or patched, and repainted; and detail work on historic elements must be meticulous.
Reeves is particularly excited about plans to address the overgrown landscape that abuts the 1902 gateway. The proposal also calls for replacing the concrete walkway around it and patching the stone stairs. “It will be wonderful to restore the vista of the campus to its original look,” Reeves said.
About $150,000 of the Class of 1956 reunion campaign funds are earmarked for the gates and “William the Silent” projects. Prior class monies have been used to refurbish the brick Scarlet Walk at Rutgers Stadium, establish an internship program with the World War II Oral History Archives Project, and endow a university scholarship.