Campus Power House

This is a picture of the Power House at Wabash from 1885. This was located on the area we now call the Mall. It sat about where the flag pole is today and the view is as if we are standing in front of Lilly Library looking east. The building we can see in the background is Peck Hall, located on the future site of Waugh Hall, now Hays Hall of Science.

It is only fitting that we can see Peck Hall in the background as the Power House was built specifically to power the scientific and electrical machines of the new Peck Hall. This scientific building was home to chemistry and what we now call physics, but which was then known as natural philosophy.

An additional, and we have to suppose greatly appreciated, function was as the heating plant for the college. The boiler replaced the sooty coal stoves in Center Hall. Here is a brief description of the photograph written by Harry Lebo. He was the entirety of Campus Services for many decades. When the old boiler went fritzy, Lebo could coax it back into action.

This building and the smokestack were demolished and new ones built further south on campus, behind the Chapel, where they stand today.

Peck Hall was a very modern building in its time. It was the brainchild of John Lyle Campbell, a Wabash alumnus, scientist, and professor. Campbell served as Secretary to the Centennial Exhibition of 1876, the giant world’s fair in Philadelphia that attracted more than 10 million visitors. As a result of his participation, Professor Campbell returned to Wabash with miraculous new technology—Edison’s electric light. Campbell demonstrated that technology with a show of lights in the east campus [now the Arboretum] that amazed the population. This was made possible by the machines in the Power House.

The headline of this article implies most do not know of this building. A true statement aside from those students who took Dr. Leslie Day’s archeology class in the 1990s. This group dug at the site and found a few old things. Still, most members of the Wabash community don’t know of this previous use of that location.

Peck Hall was demolished just after WWII and replaced with Waugh Hall which was demolished and replaced with Hays Hall. Wabash College is constantly changing and the alteration of this area is a perfect example of the march of progress.

All best,

Beth Swift

Archivist, Wabash College

Crawfordsville, Indiana.