AUB's Main Gate > 1901-1902: Main Gate Building: Planning, Architecture and Function > A Gate House as "the full solution of a troublesome problem"

 

 

 

"Cases of discipline have not been frequent, and for the most part have not been of a serious nature. [...] The most serious breaches of discipline were cases of disregard of our gate rules, visits to the city having been made against prohibition. For several years we have considered our Gate System a weak point in our administration."

 

ASC, AUB Libraries Archival Collection, Thirty-fifth annual report to Board of Managers of the Syrian Protestant College, July 10, 1901, p: 206
Students at Syrian Protestant College ca. 1900

Students at Syrian Protestant College, ca. 1900

ASC, AUB Libraries Photo Collection

 

 

 

"The large increase of billiard rooms and other attractive resorts just outside the College gates constitutes a temptation to many of our medical students, too strong to be overcome. The result shows itself in their work."

 
ASC, AUB Libraries Archival Collection, Thirty-eight annual report to Board of Managers of the Syrian Protestant College, July 2d, 1904, p:13

 

 

Students conduct in the 19th Century

Report about Student Conduct

ASC, AUB Libraries Archival Collection, Fifth annual report to Board of Managers of the Syrian Protestant College, June 27, 1871, p: 17

 

In the early days of SPC, students' comings and goings were closely monitored by the Faculty and administration: On June 19th, 1894, when some students asked for a permission to organize a picnic in the village of Dbayye, North of Beirut, the permission was firmly denied by the Faculty. In a similar vein, every effort was made by Dr. Bliss to wall off the campus, sometimes giving it clear priority over other important tasks, e.g. in one instance the establishment of a scholarship for a student, all in an effort to send out a clear message regarding the College's mission: the establishment of a campus, a "haram", a consecrated space dedicated to the creation of an academic community, one which could avail itself of the necessary quiet, mental and physical space needed to devote itself to study, reflection and the embitterment of the self.

 

 

 

Faculty Minutes - Picnic Permission,  1894

Requesting  permisison for a picnic in Dbayye: permission denied, 1894 

ASC, AUB Libraries Archival Collection, Faculty Minutes, June 19th, 1894

 

 

 

In 1901, the street facing College Hall, Medhat Pasha street, our nowadays Bliss Street, still a narrowish dirt road, must have been dwarfed by the neighboring campus; the colossal size of the imposing newly erected cut stone buildings (College Hall, Ada Dodge Hall, Assembly Hall, etc.); the manicured gardens and landscape of the intramural campus, and its quiet, neat and leafy space and well planned roads, which must have stood in stark contrast to hustle and bustle of Medhat Pasha street, led many of the Faculty members to the opinion that Medhat Pasha Street needed some serious attention. In a meeting on March 12, 1901, the Faculty voted that the condition of the road in front of the University, Medhat Pasha Street be checked and improved upon: this must have all contributed to the sense that completing the walling of the campus and providing a gate with a proper entry way to the College is a necessity.

 

 ASC, AUB Libraries Archival Collection, Faculty Minutes, 1887-1901 Collection, American University of Beirut
Faculty Minutes, March 12, 1901 -- Condition of road by annex, referred to the committee  on Gate House

 Condition of the Medhat Pasha Street, 1901

 ASC,  Archival Collection, Faculty Minutes, 1887-1901 Collection, American University of Beirut

 

 

 

In the opinion of the dedicated SPC Faculty and administration, who were striving at that point to affirm the mission of the College, to convey a clear message to the neighboring community, and to the students in seeking to nurture an atmosphere of study, quiet and discipline similar to that found in their mother New England Colleges (Yale, Amherst, Union Theological Seminary/Columbia of New York), too many temptations for the students lied outside of the Gates of the University....

 

 

Medhat Pasha Street, or Bliss Street at the turn of the 20th Century

Medhat Pasha Street, or Bliss Street at the turn of the 20th Century

ASC, AUB Libraries Photo Collection

 

 

In addition, with the stature of the College growing steadily (by 1901 the College boasted 511 students, a huge increase from its initial 16 students in 1866), a proper reception space for families, parents, alumni as well as visitors, who flocked to the College from all over the region, seemed like a necessity.

 

" All visitors will be properly received at all times in a reception room. No student will leave or enter the grounds without passing under the notice of a responsible officer. We look upon the erection of the gate house as the full solution of a troublesome problem: we also feel the difficulty of choosing an officer of the right stamp to administer that particular phase of our affairs."

ASC, AUB Libraries Archival Collection, Thirty-fifth annual report to Board of Managers of the Syrian Protestant College, July 10, 1901, p: 206
Faculty and students with visitors, 1900

Faculty and students of SPC with visitors, ca. 1900

Middle front: Dr. Nimeh Khalil Nucho, Howard Bliss, Gabriel Bie Ravndal, American Consul General at Constantinople, Mrs. Ravndal, President Daniel Bliss and Mrs. Bliss.
ASC, AUB Libraries Photo Collection

 

 

One additional point which may have contributed to the need to create a majestic entry way to the campus of the College, once the walling of the campus was complete, was the dedication of the intramural campus as a way to differentiate the space of the College from that of the neighborhood, and also, as some scholars have argued, a subtle way to send out an implicit message to reluctant sellers who may not have wanted to part with their pieces of land when asked by the College who was seeking to buy additional land, is the idea to convey to those sellers that maybe now the College was self-sufficient, hoping that this may help eventually change the mind of the sellers.

Abunnasr, M. B. (2013). The making of Ras Beirut: A landscape of memory for narratives of exceptionalism, 1870-1975. Amherst, Massachusetts: University of Massachusetts Amherst.
The Reminiscences of Daniel Bliss

The Reminiscences of Daniel Bliss
Bliss, D. (1920). The Reminiscences of Daniel Bliss. New York : Fleming H. Revell Co.

 

 

 

 

"We look upon the erection of the Main Gate as a solution to a troublesome problem."

Ras Beirut: cactus lane. 1898

Ras Beirut: Cactus Lane in the neighborhood of the College, 1898

ASC, AUB Libraries Photo Collection, Franklin Moore Photograph Collection

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