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U.S. Historic district
Contributing property
Geology Hall, Rutgers University - looking northwest.jpg
Geology Hall in 2020
Built 1872
Architect Henry Janeway Hardenbergh
Part of Queens Campus, Rutgers University (ID73001113)
Designated CP July 2, 1973

Geology Hall, formerly Geological Hall, also known as the Rutgers Geology Museum, is a building located in the historic Queens Campus section of Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey's College Avenue Campus in New Brunswick, New Jersey, United States.

When Rutgers was selected as New Jersey's only land grant college in 1864, the college began to expand its curriculum to include instruction in science and agriculture. Rutgers president William Henry Campbell raised funds to construct a building to accommodate this expansion, and Geology Hall, designed by architect Henry Janeway Hardenbergh, was built in 1872.

As part of the Queen's Campus historic district, Geology Hall was included on the New Jersey Register of Historic Places and the National Register of Historic Places in 1973. At present, the building houses administrative offices and the university's geological museum. The museum, the oldest collegiate geology museum in the United States, was founded by state geologist and Rutgers professor George Hammell Cook in 1872. Its exhibits showcase the natural history of New Jersey; focusing geology, paleontology, and anthropology. Exhibits include fluorescent zinc minerals from Franklin and Ogdensburg, a mastodon from Salem County, a dinosaur trackway discovered in Towaco, and a Ptolemaic era Egyptian mummy.

History

See also: History of Rutgers University
Geology Hall, 1910
Geology Hall in 1910.

In 1864 the State of New Jersey named Rutgers College as their sole land grant college. Pursuant to the Morrill Act of 1862, this designation gave federal lands to the state that the state could then sell to raise money to develop practical education in agriculture, science, military science and engineering.

George Hammell Cook (1818-1889) circa 1880
Professor George H. Cook was instrumental in Rutgers becoming the state's only land-grant college and developing the college's programs in the sciences and agriculture.

George Hammell Cook (1818–1889), a professor of chemistry and natural sciences, influenced the state to select Rutgers over the College of New Jersey (now Princeton University). Cook was appointed state geologist in 1864 and later became the college's vice president. With the college's land grant status and new funding for scientific studies, Cook expanded his research and teaching into geology and agriculture. In particular, Cook's expertise in geology led to breakthroughs in fertilizer research and utilization. The mineral greensand marl was useful to agriculture in the state.

In 1870, the college's board of trustees decided to erect a building (in addition to Schanck Observatory) to expand the college's new scientific programs. At this time, Rutgers was celebrating the centennial anniversary of its second charter (1770) and college president William Henry Campbell (1808–1890) solicited donations from alumni and other supporters in an extensive fundraising effort aimed at supporting these new programs. With these funds, the trustees commissioned a design for a Geological Hall from Henry Janeway Hardenbergh (1847–1918), a young architect from New Brunswick. Hardenbergh received these contracts through family connections, as several members of his family were graduates, trustees, or associated with the school. His great-great-grandfather, the Rev. Jacob Rutsen Hardenbergh (1736–1790), was Rutgers' first president and one of its founders, and his grandfather, Rev. Jacob Janeway served as vice president of the college and had turned down the post of president in 1840.

Rutgers University Geology museum stone tools exhibit
An exhibit featuring of Native American stone tools

Hardenbergh's design employs Renaissance elements with possible Dutch influence in the gables on the front and sides. The original plans called for the building to be constructed out of red brick, but the final execution was mostly in sandstone quarried in Connecticut, with some examples of stone from Newark. Geology Hall, built on the south side of Old Queens, was the second of three projects that Hardenbergh designed for the college, following an addition to a building (now Alexander Johnston Hall) that had housed the college's grammar school (now Rutgers Preparatory School) the year before. The third project, Kirkpatrick Chapel (1873), was a Gothic Revival building designed to complement the boxy Geology Hall and was erected on the north side of Old Queens.

The building was completed in 1872 at a cost of US$63,201.54 (2013: US$1,215,365). Geology Hall's first floor provided the college with rooms for laboratory and lecture instruction and housed the college's armory. The first-floor classrooms would accommodate the college's physics, military science, and geology departments. Geology Hall also provided instruction space for courses in agriculture, chemistry and engineering for several years, until Rutgers built New Jersey Hall (1889) to house the Agricultural Experiment Station, and buildings for the Chemistry and Engineering departments (1909 and 1910 respectively) across Hamilton Street on land that became the college's Voorhees Mall. Geology Hall's second floor was designed to provide sufficient space to house the college's natural history artefacts and geological specimens as a museum.

Today, Geology Hall houses some of the offices of the university's administration and the Rutgers Geology Museum. Previously, it housed the offices of the Rutgers geology department, now called the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences, from 1872 until 1979, when it moved to the university's Busch Campus in Piscataway. This was the last of the university's science department to move across the Raritan River to the Busch campus. In 1973, Geology Hall was included with six other buildings on Rutgers' Queen's Campus on the New Jersey Register of Historic Places and the National Register of Historic Places.

Rutgers Geology Museum

Rutgers University Geology museum mastodon exhibit side view
The skeleton of a mastodon discovered in Salem County in 1869

Cook established the university's geology museum in 1872 with specimens collected during the New Jersey Geological Survey which he directed as New Jersey's state geologist. Since then, the museum has operated on the building's second floor, offering free tours to small groups, schools, and to the general public. The museum's collections, of which only a small portion is on display, feature exhibits on geology, natural history, paleontology, and anthropology, with an emphasis on the natural history of New Jersey.

The museum's earliest collections began to coalesce in 1836 through the work of Lewis C. Beck (1798–1853), a physician, botanist, entomologist, chemist and geologist, who taught at Rutgers in the mid-nineteenth century from 1830 until his death in 1853. Many of the exhibits feature items that are unique to New Jersey, including Native American artifacts, minerals, and fossils. These exhibits include a set of fossilized dinosaur tracks believed to belong to the carnivorous Grallator, from the Jurassic-period discovered near Towaco in Morris County, and the skeleton of a 10,000-year old mastodon (Mammut americanum) discovered in Salem County in 1869. The mastodon, found in a marl pit near Mannington, was sold by a local farmer to a travelling circus before it was acquired by Rutgers for display.

A collection of around 2,400 specimens (including some fluorescent minerals) was donated to the museum in October 1940 by George Rowe, a mine captain with the New Jersey Zinc Company. The collection is rich in rare minerals, many of which found during twentieth-century zinc mining operations in Franklin, New Jersey. This museum's holdings were augmented with the donation of 6,000 fluorescent mineral specimens collected by Anne and Milton Hershhorn. This exhibit opened to the public in October 2002.

The museum displays a 2,400-year-old female Egyptian mummy on loan from the New Brunswick Theological Seminary. The mummy, which dates to 320 or 330 BCE in the Ptolemaic era, was discovered in Northern Egypt and brought back to the United States by a Dutch Reformed missionary who served there in the early 1700s. Little else is known about the mummy's origins, but it was stored in a closet at the seminary until 1968 when it was first put on display.

In 2013, rumors suggested that the university administration was planning to place the museum's exhibits in permanent storage, close the museum and renovate Geology Hall for use as an auditorium. A letter-writing campaign from alumni and the general public persuaded the administration to commit towards continuing the museum and expanding its mission.

Gallery

Explanatory notes

Citations

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