Historic architecture, attractive landscapes, and thoughtful planning have made The Ohio State University’s main campus a special place for learning within an urban setting. Much of that is thanks to Howard Dwight Smith, the university’s architect from 1929 to 1956.
The Dayton, Ohio native graduated from Ohio State with a degree in civil engineering in architecture in 1907. After further studies at Columbia University and in Europe, Smith joined the firm of John Russell Pope — best known for designing the Jefferson Memorial and the West Building of the National Gallery of Art — in 1911, working on projects like Henry Clay Frick’s Fifth Avenue mansion in New York until he returned to Columbus to design Ohio State’s new football stadium in 1918. During his time at Ohio State, Smith was involved in the design and planning of 30 buildings. While scouting out three of them during some recent campus visits, I made some interesting discoveries.
My first stop was on West 11th Avenue, near Neil Avenue — sorry, my Government Relations pals, not for Adriatico’s Pizza, but for the Fechko Alumnae Scholarship House. Smith designed this Tudor Revival building in 1931 as a home management laboratory for the home economics department. It became a residence for female students. Rubble stone details, an oriel window, a steeply pitched slate roof and copper gutters and downspouts give its half-timbered and brick exterior a charming residential feel. It is named for Ruth M. Fechko, who helped the cooperative housing program for academically gifted female students succeed. It’s just my kind of house.
In 1940, Smith turned his attention next door, expanding the women’s dormitory complex to create Canfield Hall. This Jacobethan Revival building features random, rough-patterned brickwork, half-timbered decorative details, steeply pitched gable roofs, a stone wall and limestone window trim, and copper gutters and downspouts. Sweet Briar wins the Best Dorms award, but this is a fine second, at least from the outside.
Canfield Hall might not stop you in your tracks with its appearance, but its namesakes should. James Hulme Canfield became Ohio State’s fourth president in 1895 and was determined that Ohio State should grow in both size and importance. During his five years as president, he did just that, doubling its enrollment and expanding its activities. His wife, Flavia, was a zealous advocate for women, organizing 26 clubs during her years in Columbus to expose them to new interests and opportunities. Their daughter, Dorothy Canfield Fisher, took violin lessons during her years in Columbus, graduated from Ohio State in 1899, brought the Montessori method of child development to the United States, guided American reading tastes as one of the first selectors for the Book-of-the-Month Club, and wrote 40 books, including the classic Understood Betsy, a book for young readers about how life on a Vermont farm helps a girl become independent and responsible.
I saved the best stop for last. At 181 South Oval Drive, nestled between Mirror Lake and Orton Hall, find the Faculty Club, which Smith also designed in 1940.
The Faculty Club at Ohio State traces its history to 1915; it was first located between Oxley Hall and the Ohio Union, then as part of Bricker Hall. By 1938, it needed a home of its own. Funded in part by member contributions and with Public Works Administration funds, it was the first building on campus that was constructed just for social entertaining. Smith gave it an Art Moderne look, with classically inspired details like corner quoins and sleek touches like a carved crest above the bronze front doors, terrazzo stairs with brass handrails and an Art Deco-styled phone booth. So, when I was invited to attend an event at the Faculty Club recently, I was glad to have the opportunity to look around this eclectic place.
As my gracious host opened these beautiful, but mammoth doors for me, I thought about another gentleman who did that very same thing for me on my last visit to the Faculty Club. It was June 1993, and my adviser, Joseph McKerns, treated me to lunch there to celebrate the graduate degree in journalism that I’d be receiving. This journalism historian and professor who taught newswriting, reporting and communication history also edited the Biographical Dictionary of American Journalism, played the guitar, loved rock music and talked like Alan Rickman would have if he had hailed from Pennsylvania. He rallied to have me return to campus to work on a doctoral degree in journalism with him, and then, just as I was going to, he died in October 2004. He was the greatest, and it just wouldn’t have been any fun without him.
McKerns was with me in spirit as I explored the Faculty Club’s spacious rooms.
In the library, I scanned the shelves and saw a collection of reading material that was as eclectic as its home. New Yorker and Architectural Digest issues keep company with the Bible and Jane Eyre. Lucy Braun’s The Woody Plants of Ohio is displayed beside Keepers of the Green: A History of Golf Course Management.
The Faculty Club offers a unique dining experience, including traditional sit-down service in the main dining room,
several small conference rooms for private parties, and a convenient buffet-style meal served in a lower-level dining room…
that extends onto a pleasant patio built into sloping terrain that descends to Mirror Lake.
In the evenings, the Faculty Club is a social gathering place where meetings, lectures and receptions are held. The meeting I attended began with a program in the Grand Lounge and finished over dinner upstairs in the main dining room.
Almost 20 years ago, the Faculty Club established an exhibition program to highlight fine artists with ties to Ohio State. Rotating current exhibits are hung in the main first floor hallway and members’ lounge; works by members of the John Behling Watercolor Society are currently on view. The upstairs hallway is lined with photographs provided by members of the Ohio State University Photographic Society, which meets at the Faculty Club on the second Thursday of every month during the school year.
A permanent collection of historic artworks is displayed throughout the club. I felt a small tremor when I spotted several Ralph Fanning watercolors on the walls of the main dining room and even the ladies’ restroom.
But two paintings hanging on the western walls of the Grand Lounge caused the sensation of a minor earthquake when I saw them. “Young Woman with Bonnet, James R. Hopkins, circa 1915-1918,” my host read as we stood in front of one of them.
“James R. Hopkins, of Hopkins Hall?,” I wondered.
I found four more Hopkins paintings around the Faculty Club: Cumberland Man with Shotgun, circa 1915-1918; Market Day in the Mountains, circa 1915-1918; Vanities (Woman at Mirror), circa 1920; and Young Woman, circa 1920. Hunch confirmed!
Hopkins, a native of Irwin, Ohio, studied at Ohio State in 1896, at the Columbus Art School in 1897, at the Cincinnati Fine Arts Academy with noted portrait painter Frank Duveneck from 1898 to 1900, and finally in Paris, in 1902. After he married Edna Boies, a fellow art student he met in Cincinnati, the couple took a year-long wedding trip to China, Japan, Ceylon and Egypt. They returned to live in Paris until 1914, when Hopkins returned to Cincinnati to teach with Duveneck and became the school’s head when Duveneck died. In 1920, they returned once more to Paris, where they came to know Pierre Renoir and Edgar Degas, even painting and studying the flowers in Claude Monet’s famous Giverny garden.
In 1923, Hopkins was invited to be an artist in residence at Ohio State. Soon after, he was appointed the chair of Ohio State’s fine arts department. There he stayed until he retired in 1948, painting portraits, teaching master classes in oil painting and transforming the six-instructor department into a nationally recognized art school.
Hopkins was known as an award-winning academic Impressionist portrait painter who meticulously drew and modeled (mostly female) subjects, then used brushwork and a bright palette to capture the play of light in the scene. In 1915, Hopkins began four years of work on a series of paintings depicting Appalachians living in Kentucky’s Cumberland mountains. This earned him recognition for being the first artist to paint Appalachian scenes.
Edna was internationally renowned for her vibrant, decorative color woodblock prints inspired by Japanese printmakers. The Cincinnati Art Museum purchased 14 of her prints; that collection remains one of the best of her works today. She died in 1937.
After his retirement, Hopkins returned to Darbyland, his family farm in Champaign County, to manage the farm and its herd of Brown Swiss cows, but he was also elected president of Farmers Bank in Mechanicsburg. In his free time, he painted portraits, played chess, raised pheasants, made wooden frames, and worked in his darkroom. He died in January 1969; Ohio State named the art department’s home on the Oval the James R. Hopkins Fine Arts Center, also known as Hopkins Hall.
To learn more about the Canfield family, read “Canfield Family Left Mark on City,” Ed Lentz’s contribution to the April 14, 2016 issue of ThisWeek News; Dorothy Canfield Fisher: A Biography, by Ida H. Washington; Pebble in a Pool: The Widening Circles of Dorothy Canfield Fisher’s Life, by Elizabeth Yates; Around the World at Eighty, by Flavia Camp Canfield, with an introduction by Dorothy Canfield Fisher; and “Flavia and Her Artists,” a short story by Dorothy’s friend Willa Cather.
For more on James and Edna Boies Hopkins, see “A Dilemma of Riches: The Art of James and Edna Hopkins,” by James M. Keny, in the February-March 1990 issue of TIMELINE; Edna Boies Hopkins: Strong in Character, Colorful in Expression, by Dominique H. Vasseur, a catalogue of an exhibition at the Columbus Museum of Art from December 2007 to March 2008; James Roy Hopkins, Ohio Artist, 1877-1969: Springfield Art Center, August 26-September 28, 1977, by Patricia D’Arcy Catron.
And for a unique perspective on the Faculty Club, track down A Design for the Main Lounge of the Faculty Club of The Ohio State University, Phyllis Krumm’s 1944 thesis presented for her Master of Arts degree. Click here to see some archival photographs of the Faculty Club, including those of its original interior.