Hello again Maureen44,
I've pulled together a goodly amount of information for you. In
addition to the link I provided earlier:
there is one other fairly extensive discussion of the Skull and Bones
Halls, Tombs and Houses: Student Society Architecture at Dartmouth
Actually, this entire document is worth a read, since it looks at the
architectural styles of a host of student societies, and places them
in the context of the images and values of the societies themselves.
I've included some excerpts below:
"This paper traces the evolution of society buildings at Dartmouth
College in Hanover, N.H., U.S.A., proposing that a shift in
iconography took place at the turn of the century in which societies
abandoned the tradition of mysterious meeting-places and took up a new
grandly-scaled domestic paradigm. This second mode only reached its
full fruition in the 1920s when societies built their second
generation of houses, this time in brick. Several broad chronological
themes can help us see the buildings in some context: starting with
the literary societies (I), the paper moves to the early secret
societies or Greek-letter fraternities as they modified the form of
their predecessors (II). The following topics are then taken up in
turn and deal most heavily with the architecture: the earliest
freestanding society halls beginning in 1860 (III), the class
societies that continued the abandoned hall tradition (IV), the mass
migration to houses beginning in the 1890s (V), and the change that
occurred when the fraternities moved into brick houses in the 1920s
Contrary to its nominal purpose, one of the goals of the secret
society is usually to make its existence known to the public, to be
the subject of public speculation. Though buildings required more
resources than a rented hall, they gave the advantages of being both
more permanent and more prominent. Secret societies build meeting
halls as much to proclaim their existence as to have a simple place to
gather. But very few American college societies had their own
buildings before the Civil War. Historians seem to regard Delta Kappa
Epsilon's 1853 occupation of a cabin at Kenyon College of Gambier,
Ohio as the first freestanding fraternity hall in the country.89 The
first substantial society building seems to be the Skull & Bones tomb
at Yale of 1856.
[photo of Skull and Bones]
The first society and a close chronological follower on the heels of
the original Union College societies was Skull & Bones...in 1856
alumni incorporated as the Russell Trust Association and built a
blank-walled tomb on High Street...Robertson & Potter added the
righthand wing to the front of the building by 1903, writing "the
simplest solution being to practically reproduce the existing wing and
separate the two members by an open porch in the mysterious style (so
far as we could interpret) of the original work."
[NOTE that the architects in 1903, Robertson & Potter, are identified,
but not the original architects. They may be unknown. I suspect the
building may have been designed by the students themselves, but
there's no hard evidence of this one way or another.]
The site also has some history of the Scroll and Key, as well as a
There are a number of other well-known buildings that resemble the
Skull and Bones to various degrees.
The Skull and Bones Building is strange, odd, bulky and mysterious.
The fact that the building is called "The Tomb" reflects many of the
qualities of the structure itself. It borrows freely from classical
Greek architecture, and in fact, most closely resembles several
buildings in the Classical Greek or Greek Revival style:
U.S. Custom House
Both buildings (above) are obviously meant to be secure, fortified,
and off-limits -- themes valued by the fellowship of the Skull and
Bones and other so-called "secret" societies.
Similar architectural style can also be seen in several Masonic
Temples, another group valuing secrecy, ritual and an air of mystery:
Masonic Hall- Nauvoo, IL
Masonic Lodge, Dublin
I hope this information is enough raw material to give you a good jump
start on your project. If there's anything else you need, please let
me know through a Request for Clarification and I'll be glad to assist
you however I can.
Clarification of Answer by
13 May 2003 06:37 PDT
One of the notable features of the Skull and Bones building is its
lack of features -- it's basically a group of big blank blocks. But
there are a few architectural touches that I've noted below, along
with links to illustrations.
I'm afraid I don't have much to add on the Scroll and Key, however, as
I haven't done the type of extensive research that I have for Skull
and Bones. There is a link to an article on restoring the Scroll and
Key that might be helpful, however:
The other links I'm giving you here are to architectural
"dictionaries", and they should be a help in identifying any other
features/styles of interest to you on either building.
Best of luck with your project.
A column attached to, or partly sunk into, a wall of pier. Also called
an "applied column" or "attached column."
[See also "post and lintel" below -- for Skull and Bones, the posts
are carved to resemble columns]
Small drop-like projections carved below a triglyph or below a Doric
Also called a "gutta"
post and lintel construction, a basic element of almost all
architectural styles, used to make, e.g., doorways
Clarification of Answer by
27 May 2003 19:27 PDT
I don't know if you have ANY INTEREST in the question any longer, now
that your project if probably done, but believe it or not, a librarian
at Yale, contacted long ago, today cam through with some more
In a book called "Yale University: The Campus Guide" from Princeton
Architectural Press (1999), there's a write-up on S&B on pages 41-42.
Here are some excerpts taken verbatim :
--Yale's version of the Great Sphinx...
--Seen from High Street, the left hand block was the first building,
its door in the center where there is now a window. A second piece
was added onto the rear in 1883, then...the original chunk was
faithfully duplicated in another expansion in 1903. A new entrance
was put between the old and new...wings.
--The architect of the original wing is usually said to be Henry
Austin and very occasionally A.J. Davis...both architects did work in
the area at the time..
--...the bluntness of the Egypto-Doric detailing would suggest
There are other tidbits of interest. Just thought you'd like to know.