Cutler Hall, Ohio University
Completed in 1819, this three-story building was named in honor of Manasseh Cutler, a man of science and medicine who was one of the founders of Ohio University. The building is the oldest campus building at any college in the Old Northwest--the states west of Pennsylvania and north of the Ohio River. The building used to house classrooms, laboratories, and faculty offices, but is now occupied exclusively by senior administrators. The building's cupola once held the bell that called students to class. Today, the cupola holds chimes that play "Alma Mater Ohio" each morning at 8 A.M and noon.
Backstory and Context
Cutler Hall was built in the late Federalist style. It is the oldest building to be built for higher education west of the Alleghenies and north of the Ohio River. It is also one of the older state universities in the nation. During the summer of 1816, the cornerstone for the College Edifice (what the building was first called) was placed. Work continued over the next two years as finances would allow. The original stonework was set by contractors Pilcher and Francis. The east end of the building was struck by lightning in August 1818, but torrential rains saved the building from burning to the ground. The damage caused by the fire postponed its opening until September 1819.
Over the years, the College Edifice (also known as the Center Building) served many purposes. It housed a dormitory, classroom, laboratory, library, and museum. The roof was raised approximately three feet in 1881. An iron gable was also installed, the small-paned windows lengthened and narrowed, and the handmade bricks were painted gray. A bell that was rung for more than 130 years calling students to class was replaced by chimes (that are now operated by tape). The chimes play “Alma Mater, Ohio” each day at 8 A.M. and noon.
The building was renamed Cutler Hall in 1914 to honor Manasseh Cutler, one of the founders of Ohio University. Cutler attended school at Yale University and was very versatile. He operated a store and practiced law and medicine. He was also a minister and scientist-statesmen.
The building was abandoned for classroom use in 1936, and when John C. Baker became president of the university in 1945, he found the site of the building displeasing. Although he was advised to have the building demolished, the building was renovated and restored to its original appearance. The building was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1966.