Spring 2003 Magazine Archive & SearchMuhlenberg Home


Door to Door - News from Muhlenberg College
page 2 Music to everyone’s ears…
Accomplished political and religious leaders to address class of 2003
A suite project…
page 3 Organic chemistry and chamber orchestra benefit from grant awards
Anderson receives Hoffman fellowship for research
Muhlenberg Summer Music Theatre unveils its 2003 season
page 4 Places We Go, Places We Know
Mark Your Calendar for the Annual Art Exhibition!
page 5 Niesenbaum Named Class of 1932 Research Professor
Curtis Dretsch returns to Theatre Department



embers of the Muhlenberg community should stroll over to the Trexler Library steps on Chew Street, and take a long hard look across the street. It would be almost impossible to miss one of Muhlenberg’s three original buildings, a true campus landmark. The Gabriel House, originally the president’s house, is nestled in the heart of the quad, encompassed by a mini grove of trees, bushes and park benches.

The layout of the campus looks as strategic and organized as a movie set, but it turns out that there were a few architectural glitches.

The president’s house and two other buildings were built in the summer of 1904. However, when school officials returned after the summer, plans had changed a bit, by accident. John Heyl ’28, the architect who designed Muhlenberg’s health center and addition to Memorial Hall, tells us that the contractor made a mistake and dug a hole on the north side of Chew Street, rather than the south side where it should have been. Muhlenberg, still in its early stages of construction, couldn’t afford to start the project over – and decided to let construction continue, according to Heyl.

Heyl was also a friend of Dr. John A. W. Haas, the fourth president of the College and the first president to reside in Gabriel. Heyl was a frequent visitor of Dr. and Mrs. Haas, who moved in immediately after Dr. Haas’s induction.

In 1964, when the College purchased the current president’s house on Leh Street, the Gabriel House became the admissions building. Gabriel housed admissions until 1989, when admissions moved to the renovated Haas College Center, formerly the John A. W. Haas Library.

In 1989, while admissions prepared to leave the Gabriel House, the Wescoe School (formerly known as the Evening College), moved in, as did the education department. The education faculty relocated to Moyer Hall when the newly built academic building opened in 2000.

Wescoe School Dean James Brennan offered his opinion on being the sole inhabitant of the Gabriel House. “I like the old-style charm of the building itself, and the fact that we’re (Wescoe) housed in one building,” he says.
“It seems to take on new life after 5 p.m., as a student center where adjunct professors come through, and students prepare for class.”

Brennan and the other staff members who work in Gabriel all attest to the historical charisma of the house. In fact, David Tyson, son of former president Levering Tyson (who was president from 1937-1951), returned a few years back to look around the house where he grew up. He recalled how Brennan’s office used to be a sitting room, while the back workroom used to be an enormous dining room.

Brennan notes that many people have reported recurring visits from a ghost, saying, “I’ve never seen him myself, but he’s been know to sit right over there,” pointing to a corner of sofas across from his office.

In addition to the supernatural speculation, the Gabriel House is one of the more interesting buildings on campus. Members of the Wescoe School staff have discovered several curious-looking crawl spaces.

There’s just something about old houses that have years of their own history.


“Places We Go, Places We Know” is a regular feature of the Muhlenberg magazine, in which we will review the history of our campus landmarks, and, whenever possible, share the thoughts and fond memories of members of the Muhlenberg family with respect to these important places. If there is a campus landmark that you would like us to highlight, please let us know by emailing bergalum@muhlenberg.edu.


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