Robert Somers Brookings, who made his fortune in the woodenware business in St. Louis with the Cupples Company, was responsible for the acquisition of the present campus of Washington University and for the initial group of buildings built thereon. This institution was close to failure in the early 1890s when Brookings, president of its board of trustees, undertook the job of financially rebuilding the school. Already wealthy, he decided to devote his philanthropy to the welfare of Washington University. The present hill top campus was purchased in 1894 and by 1899 construction had begun on the first buildings. In 1902 the buildings on the school's old site on 17th and Washington were sold and at about the same time it was decided to lease the new and unused buildings on the new site to the Louisiana Purchase Exposition for offices and various other uses. The school was in a quandary as to where it could locate for the duration of the World's Fair, but fortunately it was able to use the recently vacated old home of Mary Institute at Beaumont Avenue and Locust Street. The school realized $700,000 from the leasing of eleven buildings and its 109 acre campus by the Fair and finally occupied its new facilities in January, 1905. The history of the University since that time has been one of continual expansion both physically and in enrollment.
The earliest buildings including the Brookings quadrangle, Cupples Hall No. 2, physics and engineering buildings, two dormitories and Francis gymnasium were designed by the Philadelphia architectural firm of Cope and Stewardson in the Tudor Gothic style. Their design was the winner in an arcpitectural competition conducted by the University in 1899. Graham Memorial Chapel, also by Cope and Stewardson, was built in 1908 with its design inspired by the King's Chapel at Cambridge, England. After that, new campus construction proceeded slowly and the concept of quadrangles and linked buildings, as was originally planned, was not followed. In 1925, Bixby Hall of Fine Arts was opened replacing the old art school housed in the former British building of the World's Fair. Bixby, designed by Jamieson and Spearl, was the forerunner of the white limestone group housing the school of architecture and Steinberg Hall. The broad lawns in front of Brookings Hall have given way to acres of parking lots and the campus has become crowded with buildings. One of the most prominent of the newer structures is the John M. Olin Library completed in 1962 from plans by Murphy and Mackey. It is built of pink granite to harmonize with its Gothic neighbors on the campus. The University and its medical school have won international recognition and have produced four winners of Nobel Prizes. Among the latter is its former chancellor, the late Dr. Arthur H. Compton, who had a leading role in development of the atomic bomb.
Image - Brookings Hall, Washington University