The Syrian Protestant College and the Great War (1914-18) > 1913 > A quiet Place: a Booming College

 

 

 

"In 1913 Beirut was a rather pretty, old-fashioned place with narrow streets and a few tram cars. You could see the Lebanese mountains more clearly than today because there were no tall buildings. The mosques with their minarets were taller than anything else. Of course, none of the streets were paved and the harbor wasn’t nearly so big as it is today. Most of the ships would anchor out and you had to go out in little boats to get to them."

Actually, Beirut's population numbered over 120,000, and the city served as a major connection point between the European market and the inner cities, especially Damascus: since the 1840s it had become a key regional export port of raw silk to France, Italy, and the European market.

Elizabeth Starkey, “A Talk with Bayard Dodge”, 3rd AUB President, Saudi Aramco World, 23, no. 4, (1972),  https://www.saudiaramcoworld.com/issue/197204/a.talk.with.bayard.dodge.htm

 

 

Beirut ca. 1900
Beirut ca. 1900, Sarafian collection, Archives and Special Collections, Jafet Library, AUB

 

"SPC was a big place even then, with a campus of about 40 acres to the West of the city overlooking the Mediterranean. There were about 20 buildings on campus, including those belonging to the College Hospital and the Preparatory School.

Although the College was operated by American Missionaries, it didn’t differentiate at all between Muslims and Christians. Dr. Bliss had such a progressive point of view on religion that he really won the confidence of the Muslim boys. They trusted him and liked him and a good many started coming to the College."

Elizabeth Starkey, “A Talk with Bayard Dodge”, 3rd AUB President, Saudi Aramco World, 23, no. 4, (1972),  https://www.saudiaramcoworld.com/issue/197204/a.talk.with.bayard.dodge.htm
Syrian Protestant College 1913
Syrian Protestant College, 1913, Maynard O. Williams, Archives and Special Collections, Jafet Library, AUB

 

Plans for the College were extremely ambitious: Libraries were well endowed, state of the art student centers (West Hall), and new buildings were planned; student enrollment was steady (around a 1,000 in 1913); monetary support was available (through the Missionary Board as well as well through the Faculty, e.g. Daniel Bliss, Cleveland Dodge, etc.); Faculty was extremely committed, talented and enthusiastic. At the dawn of the Great War, a bright future seemed to lay ahead for the Syrian Protestant College.

 

 

 

 

 
President Howard Bliss with his wife Abby Bliss at Marquand House
President Howard Bliss and  Abby Bliss at Marquand House, Archives and Special Collections, Jafet Library, AUB

 

 

 

"Doctor Howard Bliss was President of the American College since 1902. After meeting Doctor Bliss and seeing how progressive he was, I decided I would like to come back to Beirut for at least a year or two and then later go up-country and learn Arabic thoroughly."

 

Elizabeth Starkey, “A Talk with Bayard Dodge”, 3rd AUB President, Saudi Aramco World, 23, no. 4, (1972),  https://www.saudiaramcoworld.com/issue/197204/a.talk.with.bayard.dodge.htm

 

College Hall ca. 1900
College Hall ca. 1900, Archives and Special Collections, Jafet Library, AUB

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