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Vassar Encyclopedia

An online work in progress under the direction of Vassar’s College Historian


The village of Arlington, an approximately one-square mile neighborhood in the Town of Poughkeepsie, was originally called Bull’s Head, after a local tavern dating from the Revolutionary War era. When Vassar opened in 1865 on the grounds that had formerly been the Dutchess County Club Horse Race Course, a variety of small shops that served […]

John Burroughs

The renowned naturalist John Burroughs had a close, although informal, relationship with Vassar College. Burroughs, who lived from 1837 to 1921, was one of the “big five” of American naturalists. The others were Louis Agassis, John James Audubon, John Muir, and Henry David Thoreau. For more than thirty years he served as adviser and mentor […]

Lake Mohonk

Lake Mohonk 1896 Albert Smiley built Lake Mohonk Mountain House in 1869 as a resort and conference center. When it opened, it boasted five hundred acres of undeveloped land, lakefront property, and powerful, wealthy guests. However, Mohonk was more than a playground for the rich: Smiley was a Quaker, and he used the resort from […]

Lincoln Center

A decision in 1916 by a committee of the Vassar Christian Association to found a Poughkeepsie community services center, Lincoln Center, under college auspices, sparked a philosophical debate between adherents to the former Vassar President Taylor and Taylor’s successor and his wife. According to Josephine Palmer, the student founder of the center, Henry and Marjorie […]

The Vassar Bank

When Henry Noble MacCracken became president of Vassar College in 1915, one of his goals was to increase interaction between the college and its surrounding village, Arlington. In 1865, Vassar had necessarily been planned to be very self-sufficient, drawing lightly on the local resources and people. As Vassar, Arlington and the times had changed, MacCracken […]