Monday, December 27, 2010

Syracuse Architects: Earl Hallenbeck (1876-1934)

Syracuse University. Photo after 1906 0f new buildings by Hallenbeck and Revels.
From left to right, Sims Hall, Bowne Hall, Carnegie library, Archbold Gymnasium.


Syracuse University. Sims Hall (1907).

Syracuse University. Slocum Hall (1918).

Syracuse Architects: Earl Hallenbeck (1876-1934)
by Samuel D. Gruber

Earl Hallenbeck is one of many forgotten architects of Syracuse and Central New York, but his many solid and stolid buildings still help define the institutional landscape of the region. Since I recently wrote of Hallenbeck's work in partnership with Frederick Revels in the designing the 1906 campus plan for Syracuse university and designing Carnegie Library (1907), I thought I'd point out some of Hallenbeck's other work in the region, especially as his biography and corpus of work is not yet listed on Syracuse Then and Now the best compendium for info on local architects.

Hallenbeck was born on March 14, 1876 in Marathon, New York and died at age 58 in Syracuse on June 2, 1934. He attended Sy­ra­cuse Uni­ver­sity in the late 1890s, and except for his work as an architect in worked New York City after graduation, he spent most of his life, beginning in 1902, teaching at Syracuse University in the Col­lege of Li­be­ral Arts and working as a regional architect. In addition to his work on the Carnegie Library, he designed other University buildings solely or in partnership with Revel. These are Haven Hall (1904, demolished), Lyman Hall (1907), Sims Hall, originally a dormitory (1907), Bowne Hall (1907), the University Power Plant 1904, Archbold Gymnasium and Stadium (1908), Slocum Hall (1918) and well as Reid Hall downtown. all of these buildings were embellished with a free interpretation of classical and Renaissance motifs. Lyman Hall is the most ornate. Of Lyman Hall, influential architectural critic Montgomery Schuyler lamented "'the author has never been forewarned with Emerson, that the vice of the times and the country is an excessive pretension." Today, however, the subsequent blandness, banality and brutality of many campus buildings make the "outrageous self-complacency and aggressiveness" of Lyman - and its encrusted exterior decoration - an enjoyable and even uplifting visual respite.



Syracuse University. Lyman Hall (1907). Photos: Samuel D. Gruber

The sole exception is the power plant (photo), built in 1904 - before the plan - and located where Link Hall is now. This was built in a Neo-medieval style apparently suggested by the Castle of Rheinstein. In any case, the architects hid the chimney within a "medieval" tower.

Hallenbeck also designed a number of private houses and school buil­dings which remain to be fully documented and the Onondaga Valley Presbyterian Church (1924).

The Revels-Hallenbeck plan really shaped the development of Syracuse University's campus for more than a half century, and today we are thankful that enough of it remains to provide the campus with some of its best moments of organized space, architectural framing, skyline accents and coherent landscape. Unfortunately decades of changing taste and conflicting plans have sapped the design of its original integrity and coherence. In some aspects, however, especially in the placement of Hendricks Chapel, the plan of Pope and Baum improved upon the Revel's and Hallenbeck's work.

According to the authors of the Syracuse University Campus Plan 2003 (Syracuse University Office of Design and Construction):

"focused on the Old Oval, proposing that the field be defined on its south side by a new range of buildings set parallel to the Old Row. Revels and Hallenbeck sited a stadium in a shallow ravine to the west of the new range of buildings, freeing the Old Oval to become a ceremonial green space. The plan's most remarkable feature was a domed addition to the rear of the Hall of Languages. This accretion, intended to contain an assembly hall, would have remade the University's first building as the north wing of a massive structure extending southward along the edge of the Old Oval. The proposed addition, which would have necessitated demolishing the Gymnasium, would have reshaped the Oval into two formal open spaces set perpendicular to one another and together forming an "L." Their "Great Quadrangle," organized along a north-south axis, was to join a smaller open space to the south of the Hall of Languages addition. Revels and Hallenbeck's scheme also marked the first appearance of the idea to relocate Holden Observatory – in this instance, to Mount Olympus – so that the open space bounded on the north by von Ranke Library, Crouse College, and Steele Hall could be better defined.

Chancellor James Roscoe Day embraced the 1906 plan, and Revels and Hallenbeck were commissioned to design the Carnegie Library (1907), Bowne Hall (1907), Sims Hall (1907), Archbold Stadium (1908), and Archbold Gymnasium (1909), quickly completing the south side of the new "Great Quadrangle." Meanwhile, the distinctive tower of Lyman Hall (1907), together with Machinery Hall (1907), rose above the Lawn, emphatically punctuating the extension of the Old Row. Soon after, however, the University was financially overextended. Construction stopped, with no additional development occurring until Slocum Hall was built for the College of Agriculture in 1918. The leviathan addition to the Hall of Languages was never built, and the Oval became a single quadrangle, rather than the two perpendicular open spaces that were originally proposed.

Perhaps the 1906 plan's most lasting effect was the reinforcement of the campus' two seminal open spaces. It transformed and formalized the Oval, creating a Main Quadrangle that would serve as a new organizing feature for the campus. The plan also called for the eastward extension of the Old Row and the Lawn, siting a new generation of buildings along the crest of the hill."

Fabius, NY. Former Fabius Central School (now Fabius-Pompey Elementary School). Earl Hallenbeck, architect (1931)
Photo: Samuel D. Gruber


Hallenbeck designed High Schools in Fabius, Liverpool and Cazenovia, and probably elsewhere. The Fabius Central School survives as the local elementary school. It was completed in 1931 in the Collegiate Gothic style, and is included as a late architectural contribution in the Fabius Village Historic District.

The following obituary, posted at on a local genealogy website appeared in the local Syracuse paper (Post-Standard?) on June 2, 1934:
Nine of Campus Buildings Were Planned by Architect

Death which came last night to Prof. Earl Hallenbeck of Syracuse University at his home, 433 Maple Street, closed the distinguished career of a widely known educator, the designer of many Central New York school buildings, including nine of the largest structures on the University campus. He was 58 years old and had been a member of the faculty of the College of Liberal Arts for 32 years. Professor Hallenbeck died of heart disease, with which he had been seriously ill since last fall. The condition became acute about two weeks ago.

Fellow members of the faculty today mourned his death and paid tribute to his ability and to his tireless efforts which were, they said, largely responsible for the growth of the department of architecture at the University. "We consider his death a very serious loss to the college" said Dean Harold L Butler of the College of Fine Arts. "He was not only a fine practicing architect, but he was also an exceptional teacher. He had the admiration and respect of his colleagues and of all his students".

Professor Hallenbeck was born in Marathon, March 14, 1876. He was graduated from Syracuse University in the late 1890s and after working as an architect in New York City for several years, returned to join the University faculty in 1902. While a member of the faculty he worked with Prof. Frederick W Revels on the plans for Lyman Hail, Haven Hall, Browne Hall, General Library, the gymnasium, the Stadium, Sims Hall and the University power plant. Alone he designed Slocum Hall. Later he combined private practice with his teaching and drew plans for many Syracuse residents. He also designed high school buildings in Liverpool, Cazenovia and Fabius and many other Central New York school buildings. Professor Hallenbeck was a member of Phi Kappa Psi Fraternity and of the East Genesee Presbyterian Church. He was of high standing in Masonic circles, having taken the 32nd degree.

Surviving are his wife, Mrs. Margaret E. Telfer Hallenbeck; two sons, Andrew T Hallenbeck of Lysander and John S. Halenbeck of Syracuse; a daughter Mrs. John E Taylor of Syracuse; two brothers Charles F Hallenbeck of Illion and Frank H Hallenbeck of Syracuse; a sister Mrs. Wilbur Burrill of Syracuse; and a grandson. The funeral will be held privately Monday afternoon from the home at 2:30 o'clock. The Rev. John R. Woodcock, pastor of the East Genesee Street Presbyterian, will conduct the service. Burial will be in Morningside Cemetery. Friends may call between 2 and 4 o'clock tomorrow afternoon and between 7 and 9 o'clock tomorrow night."

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