Washington University in St. Louis - Danforth Campus, St. Louis, MO
Washington University in St. Louis - Danforth Campus, St. Louis, MO

St. Louis,


United States

Washington University in St. Louis - Danforth Campus

In 1853 St. Louis civic leaders secured a charter to establish a university. In 1854 Washington Institute began offering classes in downtown St. Louis, growing over the next three decades to encompass three academies and a medical college, spread across disparate facilities. The school modified its charter to become Washington University in 1857 (with trustees adding “in St. Louis” in 1976). In the 1890s, a committee supported by philanthropist Robert Brookings engaged Olmsted, Olmsted & Eliot to assist in siting a centralized campus, acquiring 103 acres on high ground west of Forest Park. The Olmsted firm’s 1895 site plans and Cope & Stewardson’s 1899 “block plan” defined the Hilltop academic village on the west side and the east side’s Picturesque “front lawn,” physically and visually connected to Forest Park. An early example of the Collegiate Gothic style in America, Cope & Stewardson’s plan surrounded quadrangle courtyards with limestone and granite buildings. On the west side, ginkgo allées and canopy trees frame linear pedestrian paths and courtyards, while on the east side, paths meandered through groupings of oak and basswood. Campus buildings were leased to organizers of the 1904 World’s Fair, with classes resuming in 1905. Additions including buildings and plazas by Jamieson and Spearl (1933), Maki & Associates (1998), and SWT Design (2018) diversified the campus. In 2006, the Hilltop Campus was renamed in honor of former chancellor William Danforth. As the campus developed, ultimately comprising 169 acres, the open lawn envisioned by the Olmsted plan was overtaken by buildings and parking lots. A 2016 comprehensive plan revived some of the Olmsted firm’s design concepts, reintroducing open parkland to the eastern end and reconnecting the campus with Forest Park. Nineteen buildings contribute to the Danforth Campus Historic District, listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1979. The district was expanded in 1987 and achieved National Historic Landmark status the same year.

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