People and Places of Dickinson College

Old East - c. 1860
Photograph courtesy of the Dickinson College Archives

    This photograph is one of the earliest held in the Dickinson College Archives.  It was taken in front of the President's house, then located in the eastern section of East College, in 1860. Full identification of the party would be very difficult but certainly identified is Miss Mary Johnson, who is the girl sitting in the center of the photograph.  Later known as Mary Dillon, she was the daughter of Herman Merrills Johnson, the then President of Dickinson College who served in that post from 1860 to 1868. (More on Mary Dillon below)
    The construction of the structure that was to become known as "Old East" was completed on November 5, 1836 at a cost of $9,588 by architect and builder Henry Myers.  East College was originally used for dormitory and classroom space but the eastern section designated as living space for the President of the college and his family.  East College was the home of seven Dickinson College Presidents, beginning with John Price Durbin (1834-1845) and ending with James Andrew McCauley (1872-1888).
John Price Durbin
(1834 - 1845) 
R.Emory 1845-48
J.T. Peck 1848-52

 Charles Collins 1852-1860

H.M.Johnson 1860-68                                                  R.L.Dashiell 1868-72
Andrew McCauley

    Upon his arrival at the college in 1889, George Edward Reed decided to move his residence, purchasing a house at the corner of High and West streets.  It was originally a one-story brick house and was built in 1833 by John Reed, a jurist and the author of Pennsylvania Blackstone, who held law classes in the basement.  The house was purchased by Robert C. Woodward in 1855.  Around this time, Allison Memorial church was built on the grounds of the house and remained there until 1954, when it burned down due to an electrical fire.  Reed purchased the house in January, 1890 at a price of $8,000 and an additional one and a half stories were added.  Later that same year, the house was turned over to Dickinson College and has been the residence of eleven college Presidents since.  Once covered with stucco and paint, the facade of the house was sand-blasted in 1979 to reveal the natural brick.

George Edward Reed 
(1889 - 1911)
Presidents' House, pre 1979
    After President Reed purchased the house on the corner of West and High streets, the eastern section of East College was converted into additional dormitory space.  Each pair of students was provided with three rooms to share.  They were each given a room of their own to sleep in, while the third space was used as a common room.  Sections used as dormitory space also included a number of recitation rooms.  Two of the sections had these rooms on the third floor, while the third section room was located on the second floor.
    The porch that originally graced the front of the the eastern section of the building was removed in 1924 when the building underwent extensive renovation.  Stairs that led to the second floor entrance to the building were also removed and what had once been the basement area was incorporated as the new ground level entrance.  East College has housed the Commons Club along with other fraternities, the Deans of Men and Women, the college chaplain, and even served as the headquarters for the Army training program in World War II.

East College 1933

     Between 1968 and 1970, East College was completely renovated and designated as the Bernard Center for the Humanities.  Renovations were more severe, in fact, than intended, since the building substantially collapsed while these were going on.  The renewed building repeats the exterior design of the first East College, even using the original stone.  It now houses the departments of Classics, English, Philosophy and Religion.  In 1995, the designation "East College" was returned to the structure.

East College 1998

The young woman posing in the subject photograph went on to be very well known in Carlisle.  In 1906, as Mrs. Mary Dillon, she published a novel entitled In Old Bellaire.  This book was actually a portrait of social life in Carlisle, as well as the town itself, during the time that her father was the President of the College. One may use the guide below to read the novel.

            Key to names and places in In Old Bellaire

Partly in recognition for her book, Mary Dillon became the first woman to receive an honorary degree from Dickinson College in 1908.  The following poem was found among her personal papers, written in her own handwriting; it was never published during her lifetime.
In Old Carlisle
  No skies were ever half so blue
       Or bent on earth so sweet a smile
  As those long years ago I knew
       In old Carlisle, in old Carlisle
  No grass e'er so fresh a green
      Or which to lie and dream the while
  And gaze at heaven's blue between
      Tall tree tops as in dear Carlisle
  No roses ever blushed so red,
      Or with such witchery could will
  To paths where happy lovers tread
      The road to bliss, as in Carlisle
  No friends were ever half so near
      Or could so well the hours beguile
  As those I loved and held most dear
      In old Carlisle, in old Carlisle
Mary Dillon
Elizabeth Flores

Charles Coleman Sellers, Dickinson College: A History, Wesleyan, 1973
James Henry Morgan Dickinson College 1783 - 1933,  Carlisle, 1933
Dickinson College Special Collections (Presidents' House pamphlet and the Mary Dillon drop file)