Gnothautii Cornerstone

Gnothautii cornerstone

The third and final cornerstone-laying was for the Gnothautii cornerstone. Check out the first and second ones. Sounds like it wasn’t quite as cool as the Adelphi ceremony.

Members and friends of Gnothautii got together on a Wednesday morning to lay the mottled red granite stone, which bears a simple inscription: “Gnothautii. Founded 1848.” They filled an empty space within the stone — what we’d now call a time capsule — with several items. Among them: an account of Gnothautii’s founding, its constitution and by-laws, a list of members from the founding, a list of present officers, and newspapers.

The cornerstone was laid by Knox Professor Milton Comstock, an 1851 Knox grad and one of Gnothautii’s original founders. He taught mathematics, philosophy, and astronomy, and he also was a noted horticulturalist. Comstock was part of “The Great Triumvirate,” a name given to three distinguished scholars (Comstock, Albert Hurd, and George Churchill) who formed the core of the Knox faculty in the second half of the 19th century.

Comstock delivered remarks, and he was followed by J. A. McKenzie, a Gnothautii and a lawyer in Knox County. McKenzie made his speech without using notes.

Here’s a photo of “The Great Triumvirate.”

The Great Triumvirate of Knox College in the late 1800s.

Milton Comstock, left, Albert Hurd, right, and George Churchill were The Great Triumvirate of Knox College in the late 1800s.

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  1. So when were the three buildings joined into one? And why and how?

    • Adriana Colindres

      Great question! Our information indicates the two literary societies collapsed around the 1920s or 1930s. Right about the same time, Alumni Hall itself served as a library, but it was transitioned into a theatre sometime after Seymour Library’s dedication in 1928. Our best guess is that the three buildings were connected at some point during Alumni Hall’s conversion to a theatre so it would be easier to use and visit.

  2. Alumni Hall was never three buildings. It is one building with two matching wings unified by a central amphitheater resting on a contiguous foundation. It was designed by the E. E. Myers, the builder and architect for three state capitols: Michigan, Colorado, and Texas. He also designed the Knox County Courthouse and numerous county courthouses in the Midwest. The 1890 Gale, the Knox yearbook, has a picture of the original design and elevation of Alumni Hall. It was called “The Knox Chapel,” but after a successful campaign, where Knox alumni generously donated more than the require funds, the Trustees changed the name to Alumni Hall-never to be changed. The two “cornerstones,” one for each of the two literary societies, are markers and capstones for time capsules. Seymour Library Archives and Special Collections has an inventory of the materials in each of the time capsules. The cornerstone set by President Harrison is THE one and only cornerstone of Alumni Hall, and it does not contain a time capsule. Knox students who took classes in Alumni Hall remember the uneven floor levels. Each wing required several small steps to reach the center theater. This device was thought to enhance the ” aesthetic of surprise and discovery.” Moving through Myers’ buildings was supposed to give the visitor a sense of unexpected delight by encountering novel features or points of view. Today we appreciate open spaces perceived in one sweeping vista. In the Victorian era, popular preference favored the idea of small separate rooms with limited views of surrounding spaces. The idea of a big building that is also cozy and familiar is, by modern tastes, undesirable and unattractive. But let’s imagine a turn of century Romantic entering under the grand Roman arch flanked by asymmetrical turrets, knowing nothing of the interior, to discover a cavernous hall, a grand stage encircled by a half cylinder, and a commodious balcony. Very thrilling! Alumni Hall captures Romanticism in architecture. It was a great treat to visit-And it its day the most appealing building in the region. Let’s salute Old Alumni Hall and greet the New Alumni Hall- a worthy successor to its predecessor, and destined to live up to its name as the creation and monument to Knox Alumni.

    Sincere thanks to all who have made it possible,

    Professor R. Lance Factor
    Professor of Philosophy
    knox College

    • Professor Factor,

      Thank you for you additional information! To clarify, we meant to emphasize that Alumni Hall was not internally joined with either wing when it was initially built. We apologize if we implied the total separation of the buildings. If you have any more information to give us, we would love for you to come in and share it with us!

      Kayleigh O’Brien ’16
      Office of Communications

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