For the Record: Class of 1893 Memorial Gate

Marking an entrance into campus from Spruce Street, and tucked between Houston and Williams halls, sits the Class of 1893 Memorial Gate. Designed by two members of the class—Elliston P. Bissell and William C. Hays—the gate has a brick and terracotta base with arched ironwork that spells out the class motto in Latin: Inveniemus viam aut faciemus. (This translates to mean “We will find a way or we shall make one.”)

Bissell and Hays were part of the first class in Penn’s School of Architecture, and designed the gate in 1900. Hays, in fact, was already familiar with sketching ideas for campus structures: He won first place in the competition to design a student union for Penn, Houston Hall. (Milton Bennett Medary, Jr. won second place and the two designs were combined, with Medary’s design being the exterior.) In 1904, Hays took a position at the University of California and, over the years, worked as architect and consulting architect on many of that university’s buildings on the Davis, San Francisco, and Berkeley campuses. After the San Francisco fire of 1906, Hays was on the team that supervised the rebuilding of much of the destroyed city.

After graduation, Bissell worked first with the firm Cope and Stewardson, and then opened his own firm, Bissell and Sinkler, where he worked until his retirement in 1936. In his career, Bissell helped to restore buildings in Independence Square, designed residential buildings in Gloucester, N.J., and Chester, Pa., and helped to restore Elfreth’s Alley and estates in Germantown. For years, Bissell was also a member of the Committee for the Preservation of Historic Monuments and a chairman of a state survey of historic buildings.

For more information about this and other historical aspects of Penn, visit the University Archives website.