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Alumni Gateway

The stonework at the entrance of the Virginia Tech Mall is a distinctive gateway to the campus. This, however, is not the first gateway to adorn the grounds. The original Alumni Gateway was erected in 1912 and marked the division between Main Street and the university until it was removed in 1936.

The idea for a gateway started in the Alumni Association in 1909 and progress on the project was presented in the January 1910, Alumni bulletin.

The V. P. I. Alumni Gate

By J. S. A. Johnson, Secretary-Treasurer Of The Gate Fund Committee

Professor W. H. Rasche took the matter of an appropriate design for the Alumni Gate in hand at its inception, and the Secretary of the Gate Fund Committee has been guided largely by him in the choice of the designs to be reproduced in the Alumni Number of the Bulletin. Most of the designs were made under his direction, some eight or ten in all being submitted. There are presented herewith cuts of four designs.

The first three designs, illustrated in plates I, II and III, were made by Professor Fritz Redlich, of the Department of Graphics of this Institute. The fourth design is the work of Mr. Geo. C. Robeson, of the University of Pennsylvania.

The committee is also greatly indebted to Mr. R. J. Neely. Mr. W. E. Wine and Professor H. Gudheim, for valuable suggestions, sketches and complete designs. From all of these some good ideas have been secured. The designs of Professor Gudheim were considered as being too classic for an institution of this kind. The design submitted by Mr. Wine was not sufficiently elaborate.

It is the desire of the committee to have an expression of opinion from members of the Alumni Association, as well as from all others who contribute towards the erection of the gate. It is suggested that each person concerned notify the secretary as to his preference of the designs.

Some objections have been raised to locating the main entrance to the campus at the place indicated in the cuts (at the foot of Main Street and in front of the Shop.). With a little reflection, however, it will be seen that this is the most appropriate site. It would, of course, be highly desirable to have the main entrance located on the axis of symmetry of the campus, if there were only an important street of the town, or even any street at all, leading directly to this point. In the absence of such a street, the gate would be seldom visited and less frequently used.

It is hoped that work may be started on the gate this spring, so that it may be finished by commencement, even if the driveway can not be completed by that time. When it comes to the erection of this memorial, we may consider ourselves fortunate in having the benefit of the practical knowledge and ability of Professor Redlich. He has kindly consented to assist in the construction of the gate, whether one of his designs is finally decided upon or not. Again, the fact that much of the iron work can be done in our shops will make the gate mean all the more to us.

The sum of $494.00 has been subscribed to date. Of this amount. $213.00 has been paid. There has been expended the sum of $27.00 as follows: $16.00 for 800 two-cent stamps. $8.00 for printing circular letter, and $3.00 for cut and article in the Virginia Tech. The sum of $150.00 has been deposited in the savings department of the Bank of Blacksburg, on interest at 3 per cent., leaving $36.00 in the same bank on open account.

Descriptions Of The Designs

Plate I

In this design, the four columns are of native limestone. The two center columns are hollow and have the following dimensions: three feet square, fourteen feet high. The two side columns are twenty inches square by ten feet in height. All columns are surmounted by bronze spheres. There will appear, on the fronts of the two large columns, bronze tablets with appropriate bas-relief designs.

The driveway is planned here for the center. This will, however, necessitate the building of a retaining wall not less than five feet high. This retaining wall, together with all the accompanying earth work, will cost not less than $700.00. it is estimated.

The design provides for sidewalks on both sides of the driveway. Estimated cost, including concrete or cement floor work and the retaining wall. $1,400.00.

Plate I

Drawing of proposed gateway

Plate II

Red sandstone is the material out of which the columns in this design are to be made. Here, again, bronze balls will appear on the tops of all columns. The bronze plates on the main columns provide for bas-reliefs, as in the preceding design. The four large columns are twenty inches square by twelve feet high.

This design places the driveway at the left and, in this way, avoids the necessity of a retaining wall.

drawing of proposed gateway

Total cost, including cement or concrete floor work, $1,800.00. If native limestone were used here instead of red sandstone, the cost would be $1.500.00.

Plate III

All stone work in this design is to be of native limestone, with the exception of that around the Gothic windows, which will be of red sandstone. The four large columns are hollow. They are six feet square and twenty feet high to the tops of their roofs. The small columns are twenty inches square and twelve and ten feet high, respectively. The roofs are covered with red tiling.

The small stained-glass windows, and the fountains in front, add very much to this design.

Total estimated cost. $2,000.00.

drawing of proposed gateway

Plate IV

In this design, the author has very tastefully combined simplicity with beauty and architectural style. The pylons are to be made of pressed bricks and are to be covered with tile, selected for color. The pedestrian gateways are placed in these pylons.

At the sides of the pylons, as is illustrated in the upper corners of the cut, there will be, on one side, a plate bearing an appropriate inscription, while a small stained-glass window will be placed on the other side.

The design can be modified so as to prevent the necessity of a retaining wall.

Estimated cost, including retaining wall, $1,200.00.

The driveway, from the gate to the front of the Academic Buildings, will, it is estimated, cost about $500.00.

drawing of proposed gateway

Virginia Polytechnic Institute Bulletin, Alumni Number, Vol. 3, No. 1 January, 1910, pp. 3-5

The Virginia Tech on Wednesday, April 3, 1912, gave the initial details of the project in an article entitled:

Alumni Gate Will Soon Adorn Campus

Imposing Entrance, Gift of the Alumni, to Cost Twelve Hundred Dollars

Designed by Geo. C. Robeson, Class of '04

The large hole, which has recently been dug in the ground at the entrance to campus, signalizes the beginning of work on the Alumni Gate, the new entrance to the college grounds. The present entrance, or rather opening, which to say the least does not present an attractive appearance, has long been an eye-sore, and the need for an appropriate entrance for the naturally beautiful campus of V. P. I. has long been felt.

The Alumni Gate is being built by subscriptions from the alumni at an estimated cost of about twelve hundred dollars and will afford not only an imposing entrance way to the V. P. I. campus, but will add to the beauty of the grounds as well as the convenience of those who have occasion to enter them.

The gateway will consist of two pylons through which will be archway entrances for pedestrians. These pylons will be of dark blue limestone with trimmings of light gray sandstone or granite. They will be about eight feet square, the archways about four feet wide; the carriage driveway will be between the two pylons. Circular ornamental windows about two and a half or three feet in diameter will be built in the side faces of the pylons opposite the driveway and the covering of the pylons to be of clay tiling.

The gates in the pylons, as well as the double gates for the driveway will be made of wrought iron with bronze hinges and bronze V. P. I. monogram devices at the center of each driveway gate. The gates will be made in the Institute shops and the limestone will come from the college quarry.

The present senior class is considering putting a panel on the gate with the class numerals inscribed. If this is done doubtless the other classes will follow suit and before long an additional beauty will be added to the gate. This gate was designed by Geo. C. Robeson, class of 1904, who is now instructor of architecture in the Georgia School of Technology.

Two weeks after this was published, The Virginia Tech reported that Robeson had died in Georgia, the day after the work began on the gateway.

Work progressed through that summer, and in the September 18, 1912, edition of The Virginia Tech there was mention of the status of the job as part of an article titled “Blacksburg Enters Era of Progress.&rdquot;

“The much talked of Alumni Gate has at last been started. All the masonry, which is of handsome brown stone, has been completed, and there only remains the roofs for the two pylons and the iron gates. The entire structure will be completed before next spring and it will form a most imposing entrance to the campus and grounds. A new graded roadway has been built, beginning at the Alumni Gate and winding through the trees until it joins the old road in front of the First Academic Building. The road is flanked on one side by a six-foot cement walkway, which is a much needed improvement over the former cinder path.”

A month later, The Virginia Tech reported in the Alumni Notes section of the October 23 issue that “Mr. R. J. Neely, class of '99, who is chairman of the Alumni Gate Committee, stopped over in Blacksburg for a few hours on his way to Norfolk recently. While here, he inspected the work which has been done on the Alumni Gate and expressed himself as being much pleased with it. It is largely due to the untiring efforts of Mr. Neely that the gate has reached its present stage of construction and with such a capable man in charge of the work, it is hoped that the new gate will be open to the visitors on next Commencement Day.”

The First 100 Years reports on the completion of the gateway. “During the session of 1913-14, an alumni gate opening onto the campus at a point closely adjacent to the present intersection of College Avenue with Main Street was completed. A curving driveway was constructed from this gateway, passing north of Henderson hall and up the hill until it passed in front of both academic buildings (now the site of Rasche and Brodie). After passing these two buildings, it curved sharply to the north and then branched into a “Y” with one branch passing by the YMCA (present Student Personnel Building [now the Performing Arts Building]) and the other branch curving westward down Faculty Row. This drive was joined in front of the second Academic Building by a branch road which meandered southward by the library and the field house. Another branch road joined it in front of McBryde Hall and led to the Administration Building, wich stood on a site about half way between present Patton Hall and the Memorial Chapel. This alumni gateway provided the main entrance to the campus until it was removed in 1936 in order to widen Main Street.”

From the Bulletin of the Virginia Polytechnic Institute (Catalog) 1912 (Vol. V, No. 4, October, 1912), pp. 65-66


In the death of G. C. Robeson, which took place in Atlanta last April, the Virginia Polytechnic Institute loses one of its ablest alumni. He was just thirty years of age and his career had already given evidence of marked talent and success in his profession. From the high school in his native town, Farmville, he went to Hampden-Sidney College, where he took the A. B. degree in 1901. He became a student in the Virginia Polytechnic Institute in the summer of 1903, and the following year received the B. S. degree in mechanical engineering. He proved himself to be an excellent student, utilizing his time wisely and diligently applying himself to every duty . Three years later, he matriculated at the University of Pennsylvania, from which he was graduated with the degree of B. S. in architecture in 1910. He enjoyed the distinction of being one of the two students from the Department of Architecture at the University selected for the Sigma Chi Fraternity. He was instructor in architecture in the University of Pennsylvania, 1910-11, and in the Georgia School of Technology, 1911-12. Among some of the designs Mr. Robeson made are those for the new kindergarten building and for further extensions at the State Normal School at Farmville, and for the Alumni Gate at the Virginia Polytechnic Institute. The work on this gate was begun the day before Mr. Robeson's death. The gate is now nearing completion and forms a beautiful entrance-way to the Virginia Polytechnic Institute campus.

Mr. Robeson was a man of fine parts—original, bright, able, studious, industrious, and faithful. Having had splendid educational advantages, he was thoroughly equipped for the great life work upon which he had just entered when pneumonia brought his career to an end.

The Alumni Gate

As a result of the suggestion which was made by President Barringer at the Alumni Smoker, June, 1909, to the effect that the alumni erect a gateway to our beautiful grounds, the Alumni Gate now stands a reality.

A full account of the work of the committee to July 1st was given in the July BULLETIN. The general design of the gateway was the work of Geo. C. Robeson, class of 1904, but, before the committee could avail themselves of his assistance regarding the details, he was removed by death, March 28th, 1912.

Realizing the importance of the work committed to them, the committee have put forth every effort to produce a result worthy of the name. This explains why, although a reality, the gateway is not yet completed. Every detail has been given the most careful consideration, resulting in many cases in great delay due to the large amount of correspondence necessary. The condition of the structure is, therefore, as follows: Masonry completed, roofing materials on the grounds, and designs of gates under way.

On account of the fragility of the clay tile, the roofs will be covered with copper tiles, with copper cornice and bronze rafters. While, for the present, the finials will be of plain design, the committee hopes, through the assistance of Mr. Walter J. Biggs, of New York City, an associate member of the Association, to secure designs for finials in bronze which will be emblematical of the relation in which the institution stands to its students and the alumni. Great interest has been exhibited in this feature of the design by Mr. Biggs, for whose cooperation the committee is greatly indebted.

The committee will make no more promises as to the time of completion of the gate. We suggest, however, that the alumni be present next commencement and see what will have been done.

A general idea of the gateway may be obtained from the January, 1910, Alumni Register, Plate IV.

The accompanying plan will give an idea of the location of the gateway and the new driveway.

map of gate and walkways on campus

The gate stands at the foot of Main Street. The driveway and concrete walk lead from the entrance by graceful curves and gentle grades into the campus. Its present incomplete condition is shown by a cut in this issue of the BULLETIN.

A full account of the subscriptions, promised and paid, together With expenditures to date, October 19th, is given herewith.

Subscribers are requested to examine the lists carefully, and report to the secretary of the committee any errors occurring therein.


Aug. 17 The Blacksburg News (circular letter) ......... $8.00
Aug. 18 S. A. Johnson (stamps) ................ 16.00
Oct. 18 The Virginia Tech (article and cuts) ........ 3.00
July 25 S. A. Johnson (stamps) ................ 2.00
Apr. 8 R. P. Stanger (sand for foundation) ......... 5.00
Apr. 8 E. L. Dove (40 hrs. work, March) ......... 6.00
Apr. 8 H. E. Slusser (40 hrs. work, March) ........ 4.80
Apr. 8 Will Whittaker, (35 hrs. work, March) ...... 4.20
Apr. 10 V. P. I. (9 bbls. cement) ................ 14.85
Apr. 10 Chas. L. Martin (9 1/2 hrs. team) .......... 2.85
Apr. 10 A. E. Price (27 hrs. work) ............... 3.24
Apr. 10 E. L. Dove (50 hrs. work) ............... 7.50
Apr. 10 Will Whittaker (50 hrs. work) ............ 6.00
Apr. 10 H. E. Slusser (50 hrs. work) .............. 6.00
Apr. 10 C. A. Miller (40 hrs. work) .............. 4.80
Apr. 15 F. R. Vawter (for Jim: Oliver’s wages, Apr. 12, 13 2.50
Apr. 18 F. L. Robeson (expenses to quarry near Harrisonburg) 10.00
Apr. 18 H. Murdock (2 days’ work for self and son) .... 15.00
Apr. 18 J. J. Kanode (3 days’ work) ............... 3.75
Apr. 19 James Oliver (2 days’ work. Apr. 15. 16) .... 2.50
Apr. 20 C. L. Argabrite (4 days’ work, Smith) ....... 7.00
Apr. 20 W. T. Scanland (4 days’ work, foreman) ... 10.00
Apr. 20 W. J. Overman (drafting on designs for pylons) ..... 15.75
May 13 O. H. Culpepper (drafting on designs for pylons) ..... 28.50
May 13 F. L. Robeson (balance of expenses to quarry near Harrisonburg) .... 2.85
May 29 The Star Job Printing Office (1.000 circulars) .... 1.50
May 29 Luster-Henderson Hardware Co. (powder and fuses) 1.66
May 29 Argabrite Bros. (hauling) ................ 2.75
June 10 F. R. Benson (drafting) ................. 4.00
June 13 College Book Store (drawing materials) .... 12.29
June 17 O. H. Culpepper (drawing and materials) .. 3.29
June 17 C. W. Black (timber) ................... 1.81
June 29 S. A. Johnson (for freight on P. & R. car of stone No. 6318) 130.14
July 1 J. S. A. Johnson (for freight on P. & R. car of stone No. 21824) 108.00
July 1 Frank Grissom (10 hrs. work) ............. 1.00
Aug. 1 Argabrite Bros. (express on stone, corners) ..... 16.48
Aug. 3 O. H. Culpepper (drawing) ............... 25.55
Aug. 3 H. Murdock (work) .................... 69.40
Aug. 3 S. E. Murdock (work) .................. 60.73
Aug. 3 Mark Price (work) ..................... 21.38
Aug. 9 M. E. Price .......................... 10.90
Aug. 9 H. Murdock .......................... 33.00
Aug. 9 S. E. Murdock ......................... 29.40
Aug. 13 The Hummelstown Brownstone Co .......... 695.06
Aug. 20 H. Murdock (work) .................... 27.00
Aug. 20 S. E .. Murdock (work) .................. 23.10
Aug. 20 M. E. Price (work) .................... 8.38
Aug. 24 Argabrite Bros. (freight, etc.) ............. 9.66
Sept. 18 O. H. Culpepper (drafting) .............. 7.00
Sept. 27 Luster-Henderson Hardware Co. (wire) ..... 1.12
Sept. 27 Samuel H. French & Co. (mortar color) ..... 3.38
Sept. 27 R. P. Stanger (sand) .................... 10.00
Sept. 27 Anderson-Borden (materials) ......... 4.11
Sept. 27 C. W. Black (materials) ................. 31. 73
Sept. 27 Argabrite Bros. (hauling) .......... 9.30
  Total expenditures ............... $1,555.21
  Less $4.00 paid by F. R. Benson in work ..... 4.00
  Total disbursements .............. $1,551.21
General alumni and friends of the Institute ..................... $ 970.50
Class 1911 ............................................. 420.00
  Total subscribed .................................. $1,390.50
General alumni and friends of the Institute ...................... $ 714.50
Class 1911 ................................... 170.00
  Total ................................. $ 884.50
Interest on deposits. Savings Dept. Bank of Blacksburg. . . . 23.80
Excess freight charges. returned by N. & W. Ry.. . . . . . . . 88.20
Borrowed from Col. W. M. Brodie. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. 1,000.00
  Total ................................. $1.996.50
  F. R. Benson. paid in work. $4.00
W. J. Overman. paid in work. $5.00
Due from General Alumni Association, $3.00
  Total amount received by treasurer ............ $1 ,984.50
  Total disbursements ...................... 1,551.21
  Balance ............................... $ 433.29


The Alumni Day

The first exercise on the program for Alumni Day [Tuesday, June 16, 1914] was the dedication of the Alumni Gateway at 9:15 a. m. The procession was formed in front of the academic buildings in the following order: band, four children who officiated at the dedication, alumni, faculty, undergraduates.

The speaker of the occasion, Mr. Allen T. Eskridge, was introduced by [Alumni] President C. P. Miles. At the conclusion of Mr. Eskridge’s speech, just as the gateway was formally presented to the Institute, the veil was drawn from the words, &ldquot;Alumni Gateway,” by two couples of children, Sarah Smyth Johnson and Farrar Rasche, and Elizabeth Conner and Conway Price, one couple standing on each side of the gateway. The gateway was accepted on the part of the college by President J. D. Eggleston. The speeches of Mr. Eskridge and President Eggleston appear elsewhere in this number of the BULLETIN.

In presenting the gateway on behalf of the Alumni Association, Mr. Allen T. Eskridge spoke as follows:

Mr. President and Gentlemen:

A gateway is always significant; it is the beginning, the door, the entrance. This gateway is particularly significant at this commencement season, when the graduates of V. P. I. are, as it were, launching upon the sea of real life, entering the arena of competition in the business, industrial, and professional world.

The watchword—the slogan—what shall it be? The answer is—merit, merit in its true and broadest sense. The man who depends for success upon influence alone, upon friends alone; the man who depends upon political chicanery; yea, the man who depends alone upon his college training and diploma, will sooner or later go clown upon the rocks of a troubled sea.

Don’t misunderstand me; friends are necessary, political knowledge useful, a college training (especially in these days) essential, but there is something more needed in order to reach that high degree of efficiency and excellence, to mark the man of merit; viz, the ability and willingness to do hard work. This has been well defined as &ldquot;genius,” and must necessarily lead to varying degrees of success. Such genius, combined with those higher, nobler, purer, and better ideals of manhood; to-wit, honesty, integrity, uprightness, and character, develops the true man, the successful man, the well-rounded man, the foremost man in the industrial, scientific, and professional world, and supplies the leaders in the councils of both State and Nation.

This is distinctively an age of education. The educated man is unquestionably outstripping his uneducated neighbor. Therefore, every young man should strive—and strive earnestly—for a good and well-rounded education.

The same question, however, confronts us to-day that confronted the Greeks centuries ago, when Aristotle asked, &ldquot;What is education, and how are we to educate?” Is education to have for its object the training of the intellect, or the development of character, or both? It is practically agreed among thinking men that the educated man, by reason of his training, has a higher potential. Can it, also, be said that he has a stronger and higher type of character? Is he broader in his sympathy, more tolerant, more courageous, more patriotic, more unselfish by reason of his college training? Are such men prepared to shoulder more than their proportionate share of the burdens of the State, or are they provided with a training which will enable them to escape more easily its obligations? It is hard to compare the relative moral worth of men as to classes. Whatever our institutions are doing or leaving undone in the development of character among the students, the State (and all reliable service) is saying in no uncertain terms, &ldquot;However desirable it may be to train the mind, character is above intellect,” and is crying out to-day stronger than ever before, &ldquot;Give me men, intellectual men, learned men, skilled men, if possible, but give me men.”

And until this is fully recognized, and such influences are brought into our college life and training as will strengthen the character as well as the intellect; until the time shall come when the educated man, by reason of his training, shall not only be more able than his untrained neighbor, but also more patriotic, more courageous, better informed as to the service of the State, and more ready to take up its service; until such a spirit permeates our system of higher education, that system will not have served the ends which education should serve for a free people. It is not sufficient to be merely accurate; it is necessary to hold fast to the highest ideals.

It is indeed fitting on this commencement occasion that the Alumni Association of this institution should present to her alma mater an entrance, a gateway—an entrance not to that broad highway that leadeth to destruction, but rather to that more narrow and exclusive pathway leading to knowledge and to truth.

Our alma mater has a right to expect of us, her children, our tenderest care and most loyal devotion. She who has nourished us at her bosom, passed us through her portals, and launched us into this busy world, has a right to expect from us the highest and best results. The strongest recommendation of an institution is the success of her alumni, and let us all strive earnestly to merit her highest and most worthy commendation, &ldquot;Well done.”

Now, Mr. President, this gateway, this entrance, this token of esteem, on behalf of the Alumni Association of the V. P. I., it affords me pleasure to present to you as representing our alma mater. We dedicate it kindly, lovingly, yea, reverently, and with the sincere hope that it may not only add in beauty and architectural design to these scenes we love so well, but that it may, indeed, prove a deeper and broader incentive to those higher, nobler, truer, and better qualities of manhood—ambition, knowledge, and truth.

In accepting the gateway, President Eggleston said:

Mr. Eskridge and Members of the Alumni Association:

On behalf of the Board of Visitors I desire to express the appreciation of the college for this concrete evidence of the interest and loyalty of the alumni.

The greatest asset of alma mater is the devotion of her sons to her growth through the years. So long as loyalty, affection, and an abiding and substantial interest in her welfare is shown by her sons, she grows stronger, and greater, and more beautiful as the years pass. Her youth is renewed with each token of affection; her usefulness is enhanced; and she continues to nourish her children, and to send them forth to face the world with courage and with high ideals, and to serve the State in terms of good citizenship.

The Virginia Polytechnic Institute has sent forth many such sons. And they have in turn shown their faith in and loyalty to her by building here this gateway to her grounds. May this gift prove, indeed, to be the gateway to other substantial evidences of the recognition of her great usefulness to the State and Nation!

Gentlemen, we thank you!

(Bulletin of the Virginia Polytechnic Institute, July 1914, Volume VII, No. 3, pp. 39-41, 45)