One Man's Vision
The Richards Auditorium on the second floor of Murkland is another bright room, with high, curved, curtained windows. Against the wall facing the stairwell, Huddleston placed pew-like benches. They are carved wood, but surprisingly comfortable. Every time I have been in this area, at least one student has been studying on the benches.
Andrew called my attention to the second-floor columns. They are more ornate than the Doric columns downstairs, with capitals that blend Corinthian and Ionic forms. The Ionic influence can be seen in the top scrolls, the Corinthian in the acanthus leaves carved into the wood. "Huddleston was using the American vernacular of the classical style," Andrew observed.
The elegance of the entrance, the stairwell and the auditorium carries over into the office of the dean of liberal arts, a long room with tall elliptical windows. Money was tight in 1928, when Murkland was built, so Huddleston embellished only the most public and important parts of the building. The rest of the rooms are relatively simple and spare, but the design and workmanship have held up for more than 70 years of hard use.
The Kid Professor
Born in Indiana, Huddleston studied architecture at Cornell University, where he was apparently an impatient student. In a letter he wrote in 1967, he recalled sneaking into a sophomore art class when he was a freshman. When the professor asked Huddleston what he was doing in the class, "I told him I had been drawing in pencil since I was old enough to hold a pencil in my hand ... and I didn't want to waste my time with pencil work but take up charcoal." He was allowed to stay in the class. "Brassy," he described himself.
Upon graduation, Huddleston went to work for architecture firms in Chicago and Dayton, Ohio. He was preparing to start his own architecture firm in 1914 when President Edward T. Fairchild lured him to Durham to become head of the department of drawing and the college's supervising architect. He was 26 years old, nicknamed the Kid Professor. He would serve as supervising architect for 32 years and remain an active member of the faculty for an additional 12 years.
Huddleston loved teaching almost as much as he loved architecture. In 1918, he expanded the department of drawing to create the only college-level architecture program in northern New England. It produced 130 graduates between 1920 and 1944, when it ended because there weren't enough men on campus during World War II to keep it going.
Russell S. Harmon '22 was one of Huddleston's first architecture students. Speaking at the 1963 dedication of Huddleston Hall, he remembered his professor as "a gracious and considerate man, helpful in countless ways, yet firm in his insistence on accurate work with full respect for the ethics of the architectural profession."
"Hud believed and taught that buildings were created for people and that the human being is the beginning and end of all architecture," recalled Richard Koehler '22 at the same ceremony.
Victor Azzi, one of Huddleston's last students, describes him as a "fine, gentle person, tall and thin, a man who loved his work."
Huddleston had scarcely arrived in Durham before he began working on a broad plan for a campus of Georgian brick buildings spaced around what is now called the Great Lawn. He pictured a more compact campus than the one we have today, with more buildings at the core along Main Street, emphasizing the closeness of this community of scholars.
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