Bill Cunningham ’91, a city planner in Portland, also appreciates the more traditional elements of Reed’s built environment. “The iconic buildings from my time as a student are the original inception buildings, like Eliot and Old Dorm Block,” he says. “They’re the ones built on the model of St. John’s College, Oxford—Jacobethan brick and stone. It’s hard to think of the newer modern buildings as being on the same level as the earlier ones.”
But the iconic nature of those early buildings— the very quality that makes them ideal backdrops for nostalgia-laced ad campaigns—may be the best argument for their banality. If Eliot Hall and Old Dorm Block translate universally as “college” buildings, then do they really stand out?
According to Falsetto, they do. Neither are “dime-a-dozen structures,” he says, “given the amount of care and attention required to do such buildings properly.”
And alumni certainly view both buildings as central features of the college experience. “I loved taking classes in Eliot in the spring,” recalls Karen Leibowitz ’99, “because the view from the east end of the third floor looked out onto the cherry blossoms. It wasn’t good for my concentration, but it helped compensate for the long winter.”
Memories of classes in Eliot also stir Robin Clark ’93. “I never had adequate reverence for any chapel until my Hum 220 lectures were held there,” she says. “I felt this mildly puritanical undercurrent, like if I showed up late or skipped I’d get 20 lashes with a ruler. It was like going to the church of knowledge.”