AUB Libraries Online Exhibits

Main Gate Planning

Faculty Minutes  February 5, 1901.jpg

Faculty Minutes: Committee charged with drawing up plans for the Gate House;

ASC, AUB Libraries Archival Collection, Faculty Minutes; February 5, 1901


A committee was soon formed to draw up plans for the New Gate House, or alternatively to look into finding an architect who could draw up such plans, ones which would be fitting of a structure that could serve as an Administrative Building as well as a Gate House for the booming College. The Committee was headed by Prof. Robert Haldane West.









Letter from Bliss February 27, 1901 - Copy.jpg

Letter from David Stuart Dodge to Daniel Bliss, 

ASC, AUB Libraries Archival Collections, Daniel Bliss Collection

Discussions regarding the need to secure an additional permit to build the new Gate House went on between the Faculty, the Administration and the Committee in charge: a gate to the Syrian Protestant College already existed on Medhat Pasha street, close to Ada Dodge Hall, and the College Administration argued that no new permit thus seemed to be required, given that the College already had a permit and a gate on the street, and simply needed to erect a new one with roughly the same function, especially if the Gate were to be located in the same location.

Letter to Reverend Bliss: February 27, 1901

"[...] meanwhile if your interpretation of the original authority to build is not accepted, the walls seems to be going in-- Will the same original permission hold good for the new gate? We have a gate. You must have had the right to erect it. Same gate, same function."




Faculty Minutes   June 11, 1901.jpg

Plans for Administration Hall/Main Gate Building, 1901

ASC, AUB Libraries Archival Collection, Faculty Minutes, 1901

By June, 1901, a world renowned architect was found: the choice set on Edward Pearce Casey, known for his monumental architectural work on grand projects, designed in such a way as to give a maximum celebratory effect of grandeur, as was clearly evident from his work on the Congressional Library and later on, on the Ulysses Grant Memorial in Washington DC. The choice of such a renowned architect must have felt like a real hit, destined to provide the College with an entrance befit of its mission.

"The Committee on plans for the New Gate House reported and submitted the set of plans sent by NY architect, Mr. Casey; [the Committee] voted that the plans be adopted with certain changes suggested by the Committee and that the Committee be authorized to proceed with the erection of the Building."

Faculty minutes, June 11, 1901-- Plans for Administration Hall.






Main Gate Plan 1952.pdf

Architectural Plan for Main Gate, 1952

ASC, AUB Libraries Archival Collection


Casey did not come to Beirut for the purpose of examining the site on which the building will be erected, or for drawing the plans, but he had been in Beirut and in the Levant and along North Africa, and at the news of his choice for the project had had reported that he was very much fond of "Saracene Architecture". Dr. Dodge, who promised to finance the new Gate out of his own pockets, as well as Prof. West who was heading the Committee, both took care of communicating all necessary details and information to the architect, and acted as a liaison with the SPC Administration.

Letter to Brother Bliss: March 1901

[...] I have a good architect to suggest the plan for your new gate, as soon as Professor West's description arrives. Mr. Casey has been in Beirut all along the African coast and admires Saracene architecture. He is drawing plans for the new building. After that we leave for Constantinople..."




Main Gate 1937-Elevation 1-2.pdf

Architectural Plan for Main Gate, 1937 -- Elevation 1-2

ASC, AUB Libraries Archival Collection,

By July of the same year, Casey's plans were ready:

"Dr. Dodge has sent plans prepared by Mr. Casey, Architect of the Congressional Library, for a structure that will serve not only as a gate house but also as an administrative building. It will provide for an accurate supervision of all foot passengers and carriages; kitchen supplies will enter by a separate gate."

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



Old Main Gate  near Ada Dodge Hall pre 1901Ph_SPC-AUB_1900_5_1.jpg

Old Main Gate on Bliss Street pre-1901, with Ada Dodge Hall in the background

ASC, AUB Libraries Photo Collection, Franklin Moore Photograph Collection


Next, the location for the new gate had to be determined: while originally it was thought that the old gate location closer to Ada Dodge Hall would be okay, the Faculty ended up voting to move the gate a bit West, and placing it between Ada Dodge Hall and the Chapel, in a spot exactly facing College Hall with its imposing tower, hoping to achieve a maximum effect of expansiveness, grandeur upon entering the campus from this vantage point up the hill, without overshadowing neither Ada dodge Hall nor Assembly Hall, let alone College Hall, which the design of the Main Gate was studied to enhance, complement and valorize. In a letter to Dr. Dodge, the Committee in charge of the new building wrote:

"My Dear Dr. Dodge,

Enclosed is the receipt for the 578-2-11 which I received by the last mail. I also enclose a rough sketch of the location of the new Gate House, It’s more than probable that we may move it a little to the West and bring it opposite the middle of the Main Building[College Hall[; it is not so located in the drawing. Prof. West and I both think it will harmonize better with the other building and have it of sand stone ..."



Students leaving Chapel and the College through Main Gate , pre 1927-Ph_AUB_1920s-1930s_2_1-60h.jpg

Students Leaving Assembly Hall and the College through the Main Gate, pre-1927

ASC, AUB Libraries Photo Collection

Discussions went on regarding best means of executing the plans, while taking into consideration practical matters such as the location, the slope of the hill, the distances between the other buildings, the type of local material available, the color of the stone, its nature, cost, harmonizing all the buildings on campus, etc.:

In a Letter to Reverend Bliss, dated February 27, 1901

"[...]  I trust you may find a suitable model and make it sufficiently imposing and solid- Perhaps you can have the rooms above the portico longer, that not so deep –this may save the necessity of such a wider heavy arch. We can arrange for all the rooms you need behind it, on either side running as far back as may be necessary. If you stretch it a few rods further towards the chapel it might interfere with the sightliness of that site."


Letter to Bliss April 15, 1901.jpg

Letter from David Stuart Dodge to Daniel Bliss about the New Gate House

ASC, AUB Libraries Archival Collection

The construction of the Main Gate was planned to give a maximum effect, and complement the "noble" architecture of the AUB Campus;

Letter to Bliss: March 26th 1901

"[...] I am wondering what the clerical party will say at the vision of a row of college structures that would make many home institutions enviable. I am still beating for those new tutors."

In another letter to Bliss: April 15, 1901, Dodge writes:

"[It would be good]…… if we are favored in completing the new buildings and having them filled next year -or reasonably so.[…] I am hoping to send a sketch of the new gate and working plans next week. It will be rather more impressive than the present entrance [and better fit] for such a row of noble buildings. The road leading in the grounds will need to be showed East …..: …[this] will improve the general aspect of the campus and the approach."