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Almanac: Claremont has long enjoyed the Marston Quadrangle

by Peter Weinberger | pweinberger@claremont-courier.com
Created as a serene environment for students and faculty 100 years ago, it has long been a center point for college and community activity since completion in 1923.

It’s hard to imagine plans for the Marston Quadrangle began way back in 1908 as a feature of Myron Hunt’s campus design. Eventually, plans quickly developed when Founding Trustee Chair George W. Marston offered $100,000 to create and endow the quadrangle.

The idea was to create a serene place for students and faculty to relax and enjoy in the center of Pomona College’s campus. For inspiration, the developers used the design at Thomas Jefferson’s 1817 University of Virginia in Charlottesville, where our third president created an environment of beautiful gardens anchored by buildings at both ends.

By 1923, when Marston Quad was finished, the college delivered on the plans that currently has Bridges Auditorium and the Carnegie Building facing each other like bookends. In between are lush gardens, walkways, huge lawns, benches, a wide variety of trees, and much more. To say the plan was a success…is an understatement.

Fast forward to 2021, where the quad has become a centerpiece in Claremont for the entire community. Although it was closed during the pandemic, its opening is celebrated by the variety of people young and old who use it.

The large shady lawn is perfect to spend time reading and relaxing. Even in the hottest summer days, it somehow stays cooler. The gardens are immaculately kept, so one could see anything from a class being held, to wedding couple shoots, small event gatherings, and of course, the Pomona College commencement ceremonies. My wife Betsy and I were married at the Bridges Hall of Music—or Little Bridges—way back in 1987, with all the wedding guests and bridal party walking across the quad to the reception. Even with all the beauty in place, the grounds continue to evolve as gardens and landscaping change periodically.

Personally, I have always found Marston Quad to be an outstanding place to photograph, as the morning and evening light streams through the trees depending on the time of day. It was one of the first places I started to take pictures with a drone, many of which have been published in videos or in the COURIER print edition. The maintenance department at Pomona College was also kind enough to fish out my drone stuck near the top of a very tall tree. Good times!

Marston Quad continues to be a location moviemakers like to use, especially in front of Bridges Auditorium. John Wayne made an appearance in the film Trouble Along the Way, shot in 1952. It also became a popular place for students to come and play, even skiing and building a snowman after a rare snowfall in 1949.

Now that Marston Quad is open, enthusiasm for the grounds is high again, especially from the Claremont community. College classes are not yet in session for the fall, but the Quad still has a robust stream of people enjoying the views. It has clearly become a cool place to visit. This may not end the pandemic, but it certainly helps us live through it.

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