The first Oberlin College treasurer was appointed in 1834. Over
the subsequent six decades, this officer also served as college
secretary (or corresponding secretary) to the board of trustees.
In addition to preparing the boards correspondence, the treasurer
maintained records of donations, expenditures, fees collected, loans,
and scholarships. The treasurer also managed the Colleges investments
and property, including buildings and grounds. In 1899, the board
of trustees created the Office of the Secretary, separating its
clerical responsibilities from those duties of the treasurer.
Over the next century, functional responsibility for Oberlin Colleges
buildings and grounds would change administrative hands a number
of times. These functions were sometimes carried out in several
administrative departments. Between 1904 and 1955, the College Treasurer
managed all matters of property activity. This responsibility was
passed onto Business Manager Lewis R. Tower, who was in office from
1955 to 1971. After several name changes, the title ultimately
became the Office of Vice-President of Business and Finance. Reporting
directly to the president, this newly expanded office held responsibility
for the old functions of the treasurer and the Investment Committee.
In the administrative reorganization of 1989 the functions of the
treasurer were once again directed at managing the investments and
property assets of the College. In 1995, these duties fell to a
vice-president of finance.
Scope and Content
The records of the Office of the Treasurer contain much information
pertinent to the study of the architectural history of Oberlin.
Record series, consisting of ledgers and accounts, report on the
funding of several early college dormitories. The record group contains
information on the estate of Charles Martin Hall which include his
specifications and restrictions against the building of further
structures upon Tappan Square, as outlined in his will. A Book
of Donations documents the use of Colonial Hall as a residence
for students, ca. 1837. The most interesting information to be gleaned
from the Records of the Treasurer is to be found in the large correspondence
series, which holds extensive communication between Oberlins architects
and its financial officers. Document holdings of key correspondents
are reported in alphabetical order below.
- Andrew Auten (Correspondence file:
Arnold E. - Bolabandorf)
Landscape architect Andrew Auten sent five letters to the College
between 1895 and 1907. The last two discuss a project of Autens
with a group of students to plant shrubbery around several college
buildings for the cost of $50.
- F.N. Finney (Correspondence File
This file contains 31 letters to and from Frederick Norton Finney
and Oberlin College treasurers between 1885 and 1903. Letters
from 1886 and 1903 discuss the construction of Finney Chapel:
its placement and its funding, the feasibility of keeping the
Finney Homestead versus demolishing it, and Finneys own view
of its architect.
- William G. Frost (Correspondence
File: Frampton, John R. - Frost, Wm. G.)
Forty-five letters, 1878-1905, to and from William G. Frost
outline his work as a fund raiser for the College and his personal
financial relationship with the institution. Two sections of correspondence
are of special interest. In 1886, Frost was able to secure $50,000
from the Peters family for the reconstruction of Ladies Hall after
fire damage. Information about the need for the halls furnishings
and the request for other building funds is also noted. From 1896
to 1902, Frost attempted to sell his private residence in Oberlin,
located at 27 N. Professor St. The property and its final sale
to the College are described in detail.
- Cass Gilbert (Correspondence File:
Geach, Wm. - Glover, C.M.)
This group contains two letters written by architect Cass Gilbert
to the Oberlin College treasurer in the summer of 1907. Both letters
concern money owed to George Feick, the contractor of Finney Chapel.
- Patton, Fisher & Miller, Architects
(Correspondence File: Patton, Fisher & Miller, Architects)
This file contains 13 letters, 1884-1906, sent to Oberlin College
officials by architect Normand S. Patton of Chicago, who was affiliated
with the architectural firms (Randall & Patton; Patton &
Fisher; Patton, Fisher & Miller; and Patton & Miller).
The earliest correspondence, 1884-1886, asks that Patton be kept
in mind as a potential architect for Oberlins new library and
replacement for the burnt out Ladies Hall. The letters from 1900
describe the rebuilding of Lord Cottage following a fire, including
descriptions of the buildings second and third floors and a proposal
for better fire protection and escape. The cost, billing, and
available endowment funds connected with Carnegie Library are
discussed in the letters of 1906.
- Richard G. Peters
R.G. Peters, an Oberlin College benefactor of Manistee, Michigan,
owned the R.G. Peters Salt and Lumber Company that manufactured
lumber, shingles, and salt, and dealt in general merchandise.
This one-time Oberlin College student, now timber king, provided
funds to restore Second Ladies Hall and to build Peters Hall in
1886. His 82 letters, 1883-1907, document his 25-year relationshipincluding
financial donationswith Oberlin through Giles W. Shurtleff,
J.B.T. Marsh, William G. Frost, George B. Kimball, and James R.
Severance. Peters philanthropy, along with that of steamship
owner Captain Alva Bradley, made the bulky Peters Hall a reality.
- J.L. Silsbee (Correspondence File:
This file contains 60 letters and one sketch of the Oberlin
College campus, 1902-1907, between the Chicago architect J.L.
Silsbee and Oberlin College officials.
The largest body of correspondence concerns the Memorial Arch
located on the western edge of Tappan Square. Letters from 1902-1903
detail the monuments design, appearance, cost and the contractors
and artisans employed on the project. There is extensive discussion
of the text and tablets and the debate among the archs planners
over this issue. The later letters discuss Silsbees interest
in the plan and layout of the college campus, and his interest
to complete further work for Oberlin College.
- Weary and Kramer (Correspondence File: Weary and Kramer)
The correspondence file for the architectural firm of Weary
and Kramer (Akron, Ohio) contains 55 letters, 1884-1895. This
file consists primarily of incoming correspondence to College
officials (e.g., Charles G. Fairchild, J.B.T. Marsh, and Gen.
G.W. Shurtleff), along with a few bills and receipts for various
expenses. Buildings covered include Baldwin Cottage, Lord Cottage,
Peters Hall (referred to as the Recitation or Observatory Hall),
Spear Library-Laboratory, Talcott Hall (also called Ladies or
Boarding Hall), and the private home of Gen. Giles W. Shurtleff.
Topics in this correspondence include building plans and designs,
interior and exterior decoration, billing and payment procedures,
and changes within the architectural staff. Of special interest
are letters, 1885-1895, discussing the interior of Peters Hall,
including its heating system, oak ceilings, and cost overruns;
letters concerning the Colleges stance on the appearance and
construction costs of its buildings; an outline of the Gothic
character of Spear Library-Laboratory with descriptions and price
estimates for the buildings lights and windows, 1884; and detailed
descriptions, 1892, of the original intended appearance of Lord
Cottage and the Shurtleff home. Also of interest is the mention
of the use of local contractors and carpenters who were involved
in the construction of Baldwin and Lord cottages, 1892-1893.