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No closet Cobb fan here

image: Letters headerNot everyone is as enthusiastic about the architecture of Henry Ives Cobb as you seem to be ("Cobb's Other Buildings," October/99). In the late 1940s, I was taking a humanities course in Cobb Hall and the instructor, if I recall correctly, was Henry Rago (although I'm not sure about this after so many years!) In any event, the class was assembled and awaiting his arrival.

He showed up in a state of semi-shock and related to us the following explanation of what he had just experienced. He had been suffering from a cold or allergy and needed to take some nose drops before attending class. Somewhat reluctant to do this in the hallway or before his class, he thought he would just pop into a small closet in which audiovisual and other equipment was stored. This closet was a weird triangular-shaped alcove tucked into a corner of the building and not much use for anything except as a catchall.

He switched on the light, removed the top from his bottle of nose drops, tilted his head back, looked up dizzily and nearly choked in astonishment. "The ceiling of this tiny closet," he said, "was nearly 40 feet high!" Not exactly representative of currently held ideas that form follows function. There exists, however, a certain surprise factor in late 19th-century phony Gothic Revival. The instructor, needless to say, was not a great fan of Henry Ives Cobb.

If I ever return to the U of C, I would love to visit Cobb Hall, search out this little closet and experience the thrill of looking up into that vast space under the eaves. Since it is not likely, perhaps you would be good enough to investigate the veracity of this architectural detail for me.

Charles J. Spangler, Jr., AB'50
Portland, Oregon

Because Cobb has been remodeled since the 1940s, this closet (or its cousin) may have existed. University planner Richard Bumstead believes its ceiling would have been nearer to 20 feet in height; 40 feet, he thinks, is over the top. --Ed.

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