Saturday, November 26, 2011

Foss Hill, Wesleyan University, Church Street, Middletown, CT

The Van Vleck Observatory, built in 1914, sits atop Foss Hill near the center of the Wesleyan campus.
Foss Hill is the most fundamentally important place on campus for social interaction.

Archibald Foss and his two brothers graduated from Amenia Seminary and then from Wesleyan, all as valedictorians. Archibald Foss, Class of 1852,  later joined the faculty of Wesleyan, and it is for him that Foss Hill is named.
Archibald Foss 1852

Archibald Foss 1893

Foss Hill got its name from Professor Archibald Foss, who lived in a house next to the College Cemetery in the mid-1800s. The house, purchased by Wesleyan in 1880, was demolished in 1955 to make room for construction of the Foss Hill dormitories.

The College Cemetery, on Foss Hill, was established in 1837. The first burial, in 1837, was John Mott Smith, professor of Latin and Greek; the final one, 1980, was Philip B. Brown ’44, former chairman of the Board of Trustees. Among the 40 or so graves are the Wesleyan’s first president, Willbur Fisk, and third president, Stephen Olin, and their families, two members of the original faculty, two early trustees, faculty sons and daughters who died in childhood, several students who died while on campus, and several alumni.(4)

On two unrelated subjects, Wesleyan had a student vegetarian club as early as the 1830s. The Physiological Society, as it was called, followed the teachings of Sylvester Graham, the inventor of the graham cracker.

John Perry Barlow attended college here and was Class President 1969, graduating in the same year.

Foss Hill at Wesleyan University has been a local landmark for sledding for generations.
The hill is a gathering place for students year-round, with leaf piles in the fall as students get reacquainted, sledding and snow boarding in winter and sunbathing, Spring Fling and outdoor performances in spring. But it’s not just for students. Middletown residents have grown up visiting “the hill” and many are now taking their own children, or even grandchildren, to Foss Hill for sledding adventures. I wonder if Archibald Foss ever went sledding on Foss Hill before it was named after him.
The makeshift stage was at the bottom of the hill.
View from Foss Hill

Jerry performed here on
5/3/70 with New Riders of the Purple Sage and Grateful Dead (free show)
Film footage of this event was shown on Foss Hill on April 29, 2011.(2)

"After the concert, my friend David got in touch with the Dead and arranged for them to play a free outdoor concert the following spring at Wesleyan. On May 3rd 1970, they played at the foot of Foss Hill to a crowd of thousands. Their concert became legendary: not so much for the music – it was cold and rainy, and they were having one of their notorious off nights – as for what happened the next day. We heard hints of it in between songs when guys grabbed the mike and yelled something about a strike.  The next day, Wesleyan was among the first to join the strike that would soon hit colleges across the country. Though Nixon’s escalation into Cambodia was the ostensible reason for the strike, by noon there was one closer to home – 4 college kids murdered at Kent State in Ohio.  I wasn’t alone in wondering if the Dead’s appearance at Wesleyan hadn’t somehow precipitated the strike. Classes were canceled for the rest of the semester."(3)

A forbidden world of adventure, legend, art, and mysterious passages lies beneath the buildings, walkways, and streets of this campus. Legendary stories of the tunnels involve drug labs. “Acid made in the tunnels was used in part to pay the Grateful Dead when they played here,” H said.(1) The connected system of tunnels referred to as the maintenance tunnels can be found under Exley, Olin, Clark, PAC, Judd, ’92 Theatre, the Chapel, Zelnick, and Andrus Field.(1) Anyone know if Jerry went into the tunnels?

1.)^DiBlasi, Matt, Exploring mystical tunnels beneath the campus,  2006-05-09,
2.)^McKeon, Ed, Indy On Foss Hill, 2011-04-30,
3.)^Manchester, John, A Converstaion With Captain Trips,
4.)^Sledding through vacation At Foss Hill, 2010-12-30,

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