John Nevin, was our college's second president. During my sabbatical leave, I took advantage of the research time afforded to me by my college to answer some fundamental questions in its architectural heritage. Did Nevin have anything to do with the design of Old Main? If not, the connections between the building and the Mercersburg Theology would be weak. I sought for an answer in the meetings of the board of trustees, and I am excited to report that Nevin was, indeed, involved. Moreover, I discovered an alternate design scheme by leading Philadelphia architect Samuel Sloan (who designed four buildings for the College 20 years later).
Since it now stands right in front of the chapel, one would think that this chair must have once belonged to the chapel. One of the earliest photos of the altar (1892) show cathedra chairs, but they are very different from this. Conversations with the College archivist determined that we still do not know its origin. One idea is that the chair came from one of the literary societies.
Looking at the Gothic Revival furniture at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston reminded me of the pricelessness of Franklin and Marshall's Gothic jewel. But I was also saddened by the utter disregard for architectural heritage during the chapel's 1992 renovation. The chair is located in a spot that is both intimate (away from the foot traffic of the administration that uses Old Main) but within the vertical axis of the tower. As we begin our academic semester with Convocation, I hope to visit it regularly and reflect on America's wonderful intellectual history. If