Rutgers 250th anniversary inspires coffee table book

Anticipating the countdown to Rutgers’ 250th anniversary on Nov. 10, 2016, the University spent this last year gearing up with “Rutgers: A 250th Anniversary Portrait.”

In the upcoming coffee table book, decades of greek life relocation, building construction and historic Rutgers vs. Princeton rivalry are being compiled primarily through pictures and content gathered from Scarlet Letter yearbooks, Rutgers’ official annual photographic and written record.

The campus has been altered with many renovations over the years. The Rutgers University Art Library stands today in Voorhees Mall on the College Avenue campus, where the Delta Upsilon fraternity house stood at least six decades ago.

Besides changing the aesthetics of campus, new buildings also commemorate the historical significance of Rutgers’ history. 

Rutgers hosted the first intercollegiate sports game in history, and the College Avenue Gymnasium stands in the very place where that first game was played. 

Neilson Field was the first football field at Rutgers, enduring from the early to mid-1940s, he said. The field stretched from Records Hall to the parking deck near Records Hall on the College Avenue campus. 

Both Neilson Field and Neilson Dining Hall were named after James Neilson, an alumnus of the class of 1866 who devoted much of his time and land to the improvement of the University. 

One of the first gymnasiums, the Ballantine Gymnasium, originally sat on the corner of Somerset Street and George Street, but it burned down in the 1930s.

The core of the Ballantine was saved from the fire, and art classrooms were built around it. 

Later in 1996, the University built what is now the Jane Voorhees Zimmerli Art Museum, which was built around the pre-existing art classrooms of the Ballantine core. 

The Ballantine infrastructure was kept intact partly because the gym was “opulent” and partly because the construction was occurring in the zenith of the Great Depression, when the University was keen on salvaging all available resources. 

Elijah Reiss, a communications and promotions assistant for Rutgers 250, said he had an interest in Rutgers history since he arrived on campus. This made the project fitting for him. 

Reiss, a School of Arts and Sciences sophomore, visited the Special Collections and University Archives in Alexander Library as a first-year student and studied photographs of University architecture and traditions.

Although Reiss said he is not able to entirely confirm the fact, evidence suggests Lou Gehrig, a Major League Baseball athlete, was discovered at a game against Rutgers on Neilson Field. 

April Coage, the assistant director for Rutgers 250, has been promoting the book with the help of Third Millennium Publishing. 

The book is available for pre-sale until Mar. 1, 2015 for $50. Those who order during the pre-sale period could have their names included in the back of the book. 

“I have a new perspective [of Rutgers.] I’m an [alumna] here,” Coage said. “Learning about all this gives me greater appreciation for my alma mater.” 

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