Now located in the Sylvan Grove Theater, the 4 iconic symbols originally were grouped along the facade of the school’s first structure on its 1861 campus.
WHEN CLASSES BEGAN on Sept. 4, 1895, on the University of Washington’s new Interlaken Campus, students were greeted by a resounding artifact carried from the old campus downtown to the new: the school bell still hanging in the Denny Hall belfry.
Denny Hall is out of frame in the “Then” photo (likely taken in 1920), up the paved path that runs through the columns to the right. The bell soon became annoyingly familiar after sunrise, when the bell ringer took, it seemed, cruel pleasure in waking not only students but also the citizens of Brooklyn. (Brooklyn was the University District’s first popular name.) If the weather was right, the bell could be heard in Renton.
The 20-foot-tall, hand-carved columns seen at the center of the “Then” photo came years after the bell. The columns are examples of the Greek ionic order. Inevitably, they also became iconic, perhaps the university’s most representative symbol. Weighing about 1,000 pounds each, they were originally grouped along the facade of the school’s first structure on the original 1861 campus, near what has long since been the northeast corner of Seneca Street and Fourth Avenue.
When the classic quartet was detached and moved to the new and current campus in 1908, student preservation activists continued to hope that the entire original UW downtown building would follow, to be reunited in time for the 1909 Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition. It was not to be. Instead, selected remains of the university’s first home were carved into commemorative canes. The four surviving columns were consigned to this position in what would later be known as the Quad. They were named Loyalty, Industry, Faith and Efficiency. Neither Jean nor I knows which is which.
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In 1915, the school’s Board of Regents embraced architect Carl F. Gould’s “Revised General Plan of the University of Washington,” which included The Quad and prescribed that the architectural style of its several buildings should be Collegiate Gothic. Commerce Hall, the brick-and-tile example on the right, was completed in 1917. Work on Philosophy Hall, on the left, was delayed by the material needs of World War I, and completed late in the fall of 1920. By 1972, the names of both halls were changed to Savery, in honor of William Savery, head of the university’s Department of Philosophy for more than 40 years.
With the completion of Commerce and Philosophy halls, the quartet of columns was moved in 1921 to the Sylvan Grove Theater on campus, which had been prepared for them. The Seattle Times noted, “It was the first time that the traditional pillars have been tampered with without some sort of ceremony.” Since then the “ancient pillars” have witnessed a good share of pomp and circumstance during graduation exercises.