For the Record: Quadrangle dormitories

Penn’s first dormitory building, “The Quad,” is one of the University’s most iconic structures, lending beauty and charm to the West end of campus.

The Quad’s main structure was built between 1894 and 1929, in a late Tudor Gothic style designed by the Philadelphia firm Cope and Stewardson, headed by two faculty members at Penn. 

Walter Cope and John Stewardson, who taught in the architecture department, chose to model the Quad after buildings at Oxford and Cambridge universities in England, using similar red brick and limestone. Each of the rooms was finished in dark quartered oak, and many featured window seats and fireplaces.

The small units of rooms within the dorms were planned as “houses,” designed to break down the large scale of the Quad, which stretches from 36th to 38th streets, and Spruce Street to Hamilton Walk.

In addition to providing stunning views, the Upper Quad and Lower Quad also created a welcoming environment for students to gather, mingle, and hold events. The courtyards, the dorm steps, and the terrace were some of the popular meeting locations, often used by groups rehearsing college songs and cheers, as well as students holding large meetings and reunions, and those celebrating sports team victories.

One hundred and sixty three gargoyles decorate the Quad’s roofs, the sides of buildings, and alcoves above windows and doorways. The gargoyles provide an interesting architectural element as small works of art, but also serve to protect sides of buildings and roofs. They prevent damage by directing rainwater off the roofs.

The Memorial Tower (pictured) at the entrance to the Quad was dedicated in 1901 to the memory of alumni who died in the Spanish-American War.

Today, the Tower joins the Ware and Fisher Hassenfeld College Houses, with some Fisher Hassenfeld student rooms located inside the Tower. Also, the two college houses share the use of the fifth floor “Top of the Tower Lounge,” which includes a kitchen, ping-pong and pool tables, and a large-screen television.

For more information about this and other historical events at Penn, visit the University Archives at