It sits in the grass day in and day out, largely unnoticed except by the occasional student who perches atop it to study (a practice made famous in Liberal Arts). But why is a slowly-disintegrating piece of stone, which began its life proudly sitting atop Rosse’s left column, sitting on the lawn between Rosse and Olin nearly 200 years after the building was erected?
College Historian Tom Stamp has the story:
After the fire of 1897, which gutted [Rosse], one of the columns … toppled and its capital was damaged. The column was quickly reset, but the capital, which had been hauled off to the side of the building, proved to be beyond repair. A new capital was mounted on the reset column, and the old capital became part of the campus “furniture” — a bit of physical evidence of Kenyon’s history.
Thanks, Tom. The facts of the fire are well established, but interesting legends still swirl around its cause. One theory is that Rosse was smited by a wrathful God after it was deconsecrated as the College’s original chapel, possibly because a sinful dance planned to occur in the building at the time of the fire. While the fire was, in fact, started by a lightning strike, the deconsecration had occurred years earlier, so either God wasn’t involved or He was kind of slow to respond.
Despite the building being gutted, the June 1897 Commencement still took place in front of Rosse’s remains before it was rebuilt, as this archival photo shows.
Photos also exist of Rosse during and in the aftermath of the fire:
Apropos of nothing, but just because it’s cool, here’s a photo of Lady Rosse’s descendant, the Lord Rosse at the time, visiting the Hall in the late 1980s.