History of Crouse College

Crouse College

Setnor Auditorium

The Holtkamp organ in Setnor Auditorium

Stained glass window in Setnor Auditorium

Crouse College in winter

Built through the generosity of John Crouse as a memorial to his wife, Crouse College was intended to be used only as a women’s college. The first cornerstone was laid in June 1888, and the building was completed in September 1889. It was officially named the John Crouse Memorial College for Women.

Crouse died before the building’s completion. After his death, the building was opened by his son to both men and women. Crouse College housed the first College of Fine Arts in the United States. It was the third building on campus and highest structure in Syracuse when it was built.

Designed by Archimedes Russell, Crouse College was built in the Romanesque Revival style with High Victorian Gothic qualities. The exterior structure is made of Longmeadow brownstone and supported by a stout granite foundation. The high roofs, gables, rounded arches, and dormer windows provide a general medieval character which is romantic and stately in nature. The interior is distinctively Romanesque with carved hardwood woodwork designs representative of the elaborate patterns of this period.

Between 2001 and 2003, the building was treated to an exterior renovation. Companies from Syracuse and Ottawa, Canada, performed many tasks at great heights, including removing and replacing all of the mortar between the bricks; repairing or replacing the slate tiles on the roof; repairing the turrets, tower, and louvers covering the vents of the bell tower chimes; and removing and repairing all of the windows.

Crouse College is home to Winged Victory, the sculpture that sits at the bottom of the main staircase. The original was found in the Mediterranean Sea and is now exhibited in the Louvre. Crouse College also contains stained glass associated with religious subject matter and spiritual renewal. Original stained glass windows were created by Henry Keck, a Syracuse craftsman trained by Louis Comfort Tiffany. Some pieces were designed by former faculty member Richard Wolff and students from the college’s School of Art and Design and were installed in 1970. 

Crouse College was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1974. It is now home to the College of Visual and Performing Arts’ Rose, Jules R., and Stanford S. Setnor School of Music and the college's administrative offices.

About the auditorium

Rose and Jules R. Setnor Auditorium, which seats approximately 700 people, was originally intended as a chapel. It contains an intricate 70-foot beamed ceiling and a medieval church atmosphere. In the late 1800s and early 1900s, the auditorium provided a space to hold concerts and recitals. Today it hosts more than 175 concerts and recitals each year by Setnor School of Music faculty and students as well as guest artists.

The organ in Setnor Auditorium was a gift from John Crouse and was originally built by Frank Roosevelt in 1889. It was rebuilt by Estey Organ Co. of Vermont in 1924 and again in 1950 by Walter Holtkamp. The 3,823-pipe organ retains many of the original pipes.

In 1998, the auditorium underwent a renovation that included replacing the seats with wooden chairs reminiscent of the originals, refinishing its hardwood floors, and cleaning the chandeliers and organ pipes.

About the bell tower

Crouse College's stately bell tower was designed to house the first tower chimes installed in Syracuse, which were manufactured by Clinton H. Meneely Bell Foundry of Troy, New York. Installed in 1889, the original nine bells cost approximately $5,000 (a $1,000 discount was applied) and range in weight from 375 to 3,000 pounds. The bell metal consists of copper (78 parts) and tin (22 parts). According to a June 3, 1889 University News article, "...the following is the weight and tone of each bell in its order: 3,000 pounds, E flat, first; 2,000 pounds, F, second; 1,550 pounds, F, third; 1,200 pounds, A flat, fourth; 800 pounds, B flat, fifth; 500 pounds, C, sixth; 450 pounds, D flat, seventh; 400 pounds, D, eighth; and 375 pounds, E flat, ninth. This takes the regular octave and the 'flat seventh', which doubles the range and thus enables the chime to play a tune and changes in two keys...On the largest bell is engraved the inscription, 'John Crouse Memorial College for Women, A. D. 1889.'"

A tenth bell was added in 1937. A September 26, 1937 article in the Daily Orange notes that "The addition of a new bell to the Crouse chimes this year now makes it possible for 20 to 30 new numbers to be played. The 250-pound bell, which is capable of sounding high D above high C, is the smallest of the ten bells which now compose the chimes." The article does not indicate the cost of the new bell or where it came from.

Today the bells are still rung regularly by the student group the Chimemasters (@Chimemasters) and can be heard within a one-mile radius. The group's repertoire ranges from the University's alma mater and "Amazing Grace" to current music from Lady Gaga, Game of Thrones, and the Harry Potter films.

Learn more

You can find more SU history by visiting the SU Archives web site.