Quadrangle Dormitories

The Quadrangle Dormitory nicknamed "The Quad", consists of 3 Residential Houses: Riepe, Ware, and Fisher Hassenfeld. This was the first major dormitory on the West Philadelphia campus, and it was built in two phases: 1894-1930 and 1953-1959. Before the construction of the Quad, students commuted to campus, lived with family or friends in Philadelphia, or resided in boarding houses off-campus. The structure was intended to attract prospective students who lived farther away and help attending students foster a sense of community. In its current configuration, the Quad includes 39 Residential houses, of which 10 are named after enslavers who contributed funds to the university during its early years. Information about these namesakes and evidence of their slave ownership can be found below.


Quadrangle Dormitory Map

Highlighted Residential Houses are named after slave holders



Provosts Tower: The dorm was built in 1912, and named for Provost William Smith (1727-1803). William Smith owned one slave while serving as the university's first provost from 1755-79 & 1789-91. In December of 1771, Smith traveled to South Carolina to collect donations for the school from prominent enslavers. 

Thomas Penn: The dorm was constructed between 1912-14 and named for Thomas Penn (pictured). Penn was the son of William Penn, founder of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. He served as Proprietor of Pennsylvania for almost 30 years. During his time as Proprietor, he granted the University of Pennsylvania's 1753 charter. Thomas Penn owned several enslaved people during his lifetime.   




John Redman Coxe, 1840

Coxe: This dorm is named for the Coxe family who had strong connections to the university. William Coxe (1723-1801) was a trustee of the university for over a decade. During that time he served as the Treasurer of the Board of Trustees. Pennsylvania tax records paid in 1769, during his time as Treasurer, document his ownership of enslaved people. William’s brother’s grandson, John Redman Coxe (1773-1864) (pictured) was also connected to Penn. He assisted Benjamin Rush during the Yellow Fever Epidemic and subsequently earned a medical degree from the university. He served as a trustee for almost a decade, until he was appointed the chair of the chemistry department in the Penn Medical School. Less than 10 years later, he shifted to pharmaceutical studies and served as a professor of ‘materia medica.’ He ended his relationship with the university in 1835, after losing his professorship. Henry Sidney Coxe (1798-1850), attended the university as an undergraduate (B.A. 1815) and a masters student (A.M. 1818). During his time as an undergraduate, he founded the Philomathean Society, Penn’s first student organization. Upon his death in 1850, he emancipated 6 of his slaves and their children.

Morgan: The Morgan dorm is named in honor of Dr. John Morgan (1735-1789). Morgan was a member of Penn’s first graduating class (A.B. 1757). He studied medicine in Europe and upon his return to Philadelphia,  helped to found Penn’s medical school, the first medical school in North America. Morgan owned at least one enslaved person. In addition, and at the request of the university’s trustees, Morgan traveled to Jamaica to solicit donations. His fundraising efforts targeted wealthy plantation owners on the island, which was known for its brutal exploitation of slaves.

Morris: This dorm is named for Robert Morris (1734-1806), a national founding father famous for signing all three founding documents: the Declaration of Independence, the Articles of Confederation, and the Constitution. Morris was also a wealthy university early trustee. His wealth and plans for funding the American Revolution earned him the title of Financier of the Revolution. He earned much of this wealth by trafficking in slaves in Portugal, Spain, and the West Indies. He owned at least five enslaved people.


Caesar Augustus Rodney

Rodney: This dorm is named for Caesar Augustus Rodney (1772-1824) (pictured). Rodney was a Delaware Congressman, US Attorney General, and Penn graduate. At the height of his their success, his family’s plantation benefitted from the unpaid labor of at least 200 slaves.

Wilson: This dorm is named in honor of national founding father James Wilson (1742-1798). Wilson signed the Declaration of Independence. He was also the main framer of the Constitution and proposed the 3/5ths Compromise, which provided slaveholding states with national political representation based on the population of white people plus 3/5 the number of enslaved people. This compromise protected slavery by giving slaveholders a strong presence in the federal government. After receiving an honorary degree for his tutorship in 1766, he returned to found Penn’s law school and served as the school’s first professor in 1790. Wilson was a slave owner, claiming ownership of a man named Thomas Purcell. Pennsylvania tax records show that he owned 2 slaves in 1783, and 1 slave in 1786.




Franklin: This dorm is named for Penn’s most famous founder, Benjamin Franklin  (1705-1790). Franklin owned slaves during his lifetime before allying himself with abolitionists.


Francis Hopkinson, 1785

Hopkinson: This dorm is named for designer of the first American flag, Francis Hopkinson (1737-1791). Hopkinson was a member of Penn’s first graduating class (1757.) While serving as a trustee for the university, Hopkinson also served as a member of the Constitutional Convention. His most notable contribution to the university is his designing of the Orrery Seal in 1782. The seal is engraved on the University President’s medallion, which is worn at the annual commencement ceremony. Pennsylvania tax records and a Philadelphia Census prove Hopkinson owned at least 2 slaves.

Provost Smith: The dorm was named for Provost William Smith (1727-1803). William Smith owned one slave while serving as the university's first provost from 1755-79 & 1789-91. In December of 1771, Smith traveled to South Carolina to collect donations for the school from prominent slave owners. 

George Whitefield (Statue)  A large statue of George Whitefield (1714-1770) stands in the Fisher Hassenfeld College House. Whitefield is considered one of the founders of Methodism and the most influential evangelical preacher during the transatlantic eighteenth century revival known as the “First Great Awakening.”  Whitefield was known during his own time for preaching to integrated audiences. After building what would ultimately become Penn’s first building in 1740, Whitefield traveled to the colony of Georgia. During the next decade, he successfully overturned the anti-slave laws and helped to reestablish slavery in the colony. Upon his death in 1770, Whitefield bequeathed 4,000 acres of land in Georgia and 50 slaves to the Countess of Huntingdon. Because of Whitefield’s ownership of the building that became the College of Philadelphia’s first building and his friendship with Benjamin Franklin, the University of Pennsylvania claims its start date as 1740, the date of the Whitefield building’s construction. College classes were not held in the building, however, until more than a decade later.

~VanJessica Gladney