Upsala College


Bill Taebel - Upsala College Class of '65'


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Upsala College was founded at the annual Augustana Synod meeting in Rock Island, Illinois, in 1893. Lars Herman Beck was called to become the 1st President. After having held classes in various church basements throughout Brooklyn, the school was offered land and some monetary funds by the New Orange Industrial Association in Kenilworth, New Jersey. Upsala became a four year degree college in 1903 and graduated its first students with B.A. degrees in 1905. Beck resigned from the position of President in 1910.

An Upsala College graduate, Rev. Peter Froeberg assumed the presidency in 1910.

C.G. Erickson assumed the presidency of Upsala College in 1920 and served until 1936. In 1923, the college 45 acres of land in East Orange, New Jersey, where a new campus was erected.

The Rev. Evald Benjamin Lawson became president of the College in 1938, a position he held until he died in 1965. During Lawson's tenure the college expanded physically and new buildings were built, Beck Hall, the residence halls, library and a chapel.

Carl Gustaf Fjellman assumed the presidency in 1966. Fjellman oversaw the completion of the Puder Hall of the sciences in 1968, the College Center, and a new town house complex, which were both built in 1970. Multiculturalism and intergration became key issues for the administration during Fjellman's presidency. A few factors that most likely contributed directly to new challenges for Upsala administration in the late 1960s were the economic downturn in the urban area of East Orange and the riots in neighboring Newark in 1967.

Rodney Felder became the sixth president in 1976 and stayed at Upsala until 1984. During this period the school expanded and added a second campus (Wirths) in Sussex County.

David E. Schramm was elected president in 1986 and stayed in that position for only two years. The College suffered from declining enrollment during the 80s and tax base from the city of East Orange.

Robert E. Karsten became the president of Upsala College in 1988 when the school was suffering from serious economic problems. After decades of downsizing, Karsten worked diligently to increase the student enrollment and improve the academic standards of the students admitted. He brought in both a number of international students and students outside the immediate commuting area. He also initiated renovations of buildings and major cleaning of the grounds. Despite the committed leadership of Karsten and improvements of the both the student body and the campus the economic situation worsened. Even a $4 million dollar loan from its Lutheran sister colleges in the Midwest was not enough to keep the situation solvent.

Paul V. DeLomba was hired in 1994 by the Board of Directors to close the College. Upsala College closed on May 31, 1995.

This information paraphrased from information at the Swenson Swedish Immigration Center at the Augustana College, Rock Island, IL library web site.

From the Newark Star-Ledger, Tuesday, March 31, 1998 by Steven Walker. East Orange fire officials blame arson for loss of old Upsala College building

Arson was the cause of a weekend fire that destroyed a three-story structure on the former campus of Upsala College in East Orange, authorities determined yesterday. A fire erupted Sunday at 6:22p.m. in the Prospect House, a three-story wood-frame building on what is now city property.

The structure is expected to be razed.

From the Newark Star-Ledger, Thursday, May 14, 1998 by Steven Walker. Lease deal helps renewal plan move ahead: E. Orange to convert former Upsala College into high school, renovate other buildings.

"East Orange Superintendent of Schools John Howard yesterday announced plans to use $65 million secured through a lease deal to begin the much awaited first phase of renovations to the old Upsala College campus."

From the Newark Star-Ledger, Sunday, March 21, 1999, by Kevin Dilworth. East Orange to build high school.

"Construction on the long-awaited East Orange High School Campus could begin on the old Upsala College site in June, clearing the way for the city's new single consolidated high school to be opened by late 2000, the school superintendent said last week. School district officials are awaiting municipal permits to proceed with a $31 million redevelopment plan that includes demolishing three campus buildings, creating a new school to serve the city's 10th-, 11th- and 12th-graders, and making other improvements and renovations at the site."

From the Newark Star-Ledger, Sunday, February 6, 2000, by Kevin Dilworth. Upsala campus headed for new heights.

"Now plans are afoot to solicit developers' interest in efforts to revitalize the campus into Upsala Heights. The idea calls for transforming the city's half of the campus, a western parcel, into a $30 million to $35 million housing development off Prospect Street and Springdale Avenue."

From the city of East Orange Request For Proposals, Upsala Redevelopment Area.

The City of East Orange is soliciting proposals from qualified developers for the purchase and development of land known as the Upsala Redevelopment Area, the proposed site for a 20 Acre residential development. Development of the site is expected to begin in the Spring of 2004.

From the Newark Star Ledger Tuesday October 21, 2003, by Kevin Dilworth. 2 get nod to put housing on old Upsala campus

"The East Orange City Council gave preliminary approval last night to naming two developers to transform the former Upsala College's western campus into a 64-unit housing community.

The Alpert Group, a limited-liability corporation, of Fort Lee and Applied Development Co. of Hoboken are expected to receive formal approval Monday to build Woodlands at Upsala, a $15 million project that will feature 48 single-family, three- and four-bedroom homes, and 16 townhouses.

The developers promised to turn the abandoned 20-acre campus into an extension of Woodland Avenue, a tree-line thoroughfare with expansive lawns, gas lamps and an array of beautiful upscale homes.

Under the plan, varying designs of brick, stucco and clapboard facade houses will be enclosed by an 8-foot-high brick wall and wrought- iron gate on the Prospect Street side of the parcel and a similar but lower brick wall and wrought-iron gates on the Springdale Avenue side.

The townhouses will be sold for a projected $225,000, with the three-bedroom homes priced at $262,000 and the four-bedroom residences selling for $287,000.

All the deteriorating buildings on Upsala's western parcel -- the Charles Hathaway mansion built in 1901 that Upsala College renamed the Kenbrook Hall administration building, the Christ Chapel, the Peter Froeberg Hall dormitories and the library -- will be demolished.

James Slaughter, the city's director of policy, planning and economic development, said damage done to Kenbrook Hall by vandals and thieves has resulted in a prohibitive renovation cost of $1 million to $2 million.

"Our intent is to start construction in the spring or early summer of 2004 and complete everything by the spring of 2005," Portney said.

College campus preps for new career Developers close on deal for 20-acres destined for housing mix

Friday, March 18, 2005 BY KEVIN C. DILWORTH Star-Ledger Staff

It probably won't be long before the wrecking ball finally starts demolishing the many buildings that once comprised Upsala College's sprawling, 20-acre western campus in East Orange.

After months of negotiations, a consortium consisting of two development firms this week purchased the property off Prospect Street and Springdale Avenue for $1.5 million.

"We closed on the property (Tuesday)," developer Joseph Alpert of the Alpert and Alpert Development Group said yesterday. He plans to build a semi-gated housing community on the college campus that the Lutheran Church of Sweden operated in the city from 1924 until 1995.

Right now, "We're in the process of scheduling all the environmental (remediation) and demolition," he said.

The purchase comes 10 years after Upsala's board of trustees voted to close the financially strapped institution. Founded in 1893 in Brooklyn, Upsala moved to Kenilworth in 1898, and, finally, to East Orange in 1924.

Faced with $12.5 million in debt, bankruptcy, a drastic drop in enrollment, problems associated with the lowering of academic acceptance standards, and the loss of the school's accreditation, the college officially closed on May 31, 1995.

The Woodlands Group, a joint venture consisting of the Alpert Group, a limited liability corporation in Fort Lee, and the Applied Development Co. of Hoboken, now plans to transform the heavily vandalized and squatter-filled western campus into a semi-gated, middle- income housing community.

The proposed Woodlands at Upsala, price-tagged at $15 million, will consist of 48 three-bedroom and four-bedroom private homes, and 16 townhouses.

"We're ready to go," Mayor Robert Bowser said of Tuesday's closing and the Woodlands at Upsala proposal finally moving from proposal status, which won the developers the preliminary endorsement of the council on Oct. 20, 2003.

City planning director James Slaughter added, "We believe that this development will signal a new wave of innovative housing, and encourage retail and commercial vendors to come to East Orange, where the annual disposable income is about $409 million and where residents can take advantage of NJ Transit's Midtown Direct rail service and other forms of mass transit."

Alpert said it might not be until March 28 before he and his business partners develop any specific timetable for environmental remediation, including asbestos removal, and decide on dates to begin razing the college's properties.

The buildings to be demolished include the Charles Hathaway mansion- turned-Kenbrook Hall administration building, the Peter Froeberg dormitories, the Christ Chapel and the library building.

The entrance to Woodlands at Upsala will be at Springdale and Woodlands avenues, a tree-lined intersection with well-manicured lawns and original gas street lamps. That 1st Ward area is one of the most prestigious-looking locales in the four-square-mile city.

The pending demolition of Kenbrook Hall -- a grand, 1900 residence that is one of East Orange's last remaining mansions -- is particularly upsetting to alumni.

Because the western campus was left unattended and unprotected for most of the last 10 years, vandals and thieves have heavily damaged the rapidly deteriorating structure and caused asbestos, part of the century-old building's original construction, to become exposed and crumble. The mansion would be extraordinarily expensive to rehabilitate, officials admitted.

Rehabilitating the mansion, minus any environmental remediation, had been estimated at $1.1 million to $1.8 million alone, Slaughter said.

The Star-Ledger Archive COPYRIGHT © The Star-Ledger 2005

Date: 2005/10/20 Thursday Page: 019 Section: ESSEX Edition:

Upsala building demolitions face delay East Orange official has no permit requests By KEVIN C. DILWORTH STAR-LEDGER STAFF

A developer involved with transforming Upsala College's former western campus into a $17 million East Orange residential community said some wood-frame buildings will be demolished this week, but a city official yesterday said no work permits have been requested.

The defunct college's former Music House residence, adjacent to the Springdale and Woodlands avenues entrance to the campus; the Nelsenius House, behind the old Student Services Center; and four homes, in the rear of the campus, were scheduled to be razed, Joseph Alpert, one of the developers, said Monday.

However, Lloyd Abdul Raheem, the city's construction official, said he knows nothing about any planned demolition work at the future Woodland Heights residential community, and no permits have been requested from East Orange's department of property maintenance.

The razing of Upsala's old Music House is especially necessary because it lies on a site where a model home should be constructed within the next 120 days, said Alpert, whose Alpert Group LLC of Fort Lee, along with the Applied Development Co. of Hoboken, is involved in the Woodland Heights venture.

Every single standing structure on Upsala's western 20-acre parcel eventually is going to be razed as a precursor to the developers constructing 51 single-family homes, three-bedroom and four-bedroom residences on quarter-acre plots and with two-car garages, as well as 17 attached three-story townhouses, each with three bedrooms and two bathrooms.

Asbestos remediation efforts continue in the brick, mortar and steel buildings on the campus.

The former Charles Hathaway mansion that became the Kenbrook Hall administration building built in 1900, the Froeberg Hall dormitories, the Christ Chapel and the college's one-time library building, are all expected to be bulldozed during the first few months of next year, Alpert said.

When built, Woodland Heights' three- and four-bedroom detached residences are expected to sell for $390,000 to $400,000 each, and the attached townhouses, about $350,000 each. Neither Alpert, nor Josh Wuestneck, an official with the Applied Group, returned calls for comment about the delayed status of demolition, or about complaints that Upsala's fenced-off western campus is now overgrown with unsightly weeds.

Upsala went out of business on May 3, 1995, after the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America-supported school amassed $12.5 million in debts, went bankrupt, lost its academic accreditation and suffered a huge drop in enrollment.

Upsala was founded 1893 in Brooklyn as a private independent institution, moved to Kenilworth in 1898, and finally to East Orange in 1924, where it operated for 71 years.

Today, the East Orange Board of Education owns Upsala's former 20-acre eastern campus, where the district's new East Orange Campus High School - that partly includes Upsala's former Puder and Beck academic hall buildings - opened in September 2002.

From: Bill Taebel [] Sent: 3/28/2006 1:19 AM To: DILWORTH, KEVIN Star-Ledger Subject: Re: Upsala College major demolition project underway

Somehow the actual demolition of the west campus writes an end to a part of our life that will at least live on in the east campus classrooms of the high school. A part of our lives, that as long as the buildings survived, might have allowed the resurrection of the college.

Two thoughts came to mind based on recent visits to the campus. One in July 2003, a small group of us, Greek brothers and sisters from the 60's, walked through the Quad in front of Froeburg Hall. Suddenly, like a ghostly student brigade coming and going, we heard the sound of doors slamming in North Hall. In reality it was only the wind blowing thru the broken windows. But it gave a sense of presence to the decay. Then in December 2005, I passed by again on a visit to NJ from Arizona. Snow covered the ground and the library was being demolished. Yet, in one window there was a fluorescent ceiling fixture still burning, like it was fighting to live on.

Youth, unbounded energy, invincibility, eager thirsty sponges. We actually thought we KNEW something when we came to Upsala. We had no idea how much more there was to learn! Profs at Upsala stretched our minds, showed us how to think critically whether it was a History course or a Spanish course. It was never about just learning the material. It was always about growing and stretching and challenging us.

Our era was early Viet Nam. Some of our friends went off to war.....some we never found again. Bob Dylan and Joan Baez were the new wave. Woody Guthrie, Pete Seeger and Peter, Paul and Mary raised our social consciousness. I remember going to a midnight concert in early 1964,at Rutgers University, where Bob Dylan was the featured act. Homecoming, Spring Week, Lucia Fest at Christmas, all wonderful traditions that brought all the students together. Many of us met the loves of our lives....our soulmates....and are still in love with them all these years later.

With the death of Upsala College, many of us feel as if, when we die, there will be no one to remember Upsala and what a wonderful place it was. It held such hope and aspirations, love and sharing, living together and growing up. Somehow with the passing of our old friend, there is a large part of our persona that is dying too. I sit here in tears, mourning for an old friend who gave me, and all of us, much......spiritually, socially, educationally. She welcomed us into our, she pushed us into our adulthood. How sad it is to think that in a few years, by the end of this century, no one will remember Upsala College or know of the people who taught and learned there. To that end, some of are collecting Upsala memorabilia, but even then, where do they put it? Who will guard it when we are gone? Who will know what it means or it's value to those who attended Upsala?

The demolition will soon be complete...and all that will be left are my pictures, the framed diploma, the cherished memories of campus life, and the lifelong friends who are with us today as they were 40 years ago. These are the things that can never be taken.

Bill Taebel, Upsala class of 1965, Tucson, Arizona

Publication:Star Ledger; Date:Mar 31, 2006; Section:East Essex County; Page Number:270

Hallowed halls reduced to rubble in East Orange


One of East Orange’s most famous and historic landmarks — turn-of-the-century WallStreet broker Charles Hathaway’s mansion, which Upsala College eventually acquired and transformed into its palatial Kenbrook Hall administration building — is gone.

The magnificent residence - turned-college property, on the northwest corner of Prospect Street and Springdale Avenue, has been bulldozed into dust and rubble.

More demolition is under way this week, as excavator operators and dump truck drivers busy themselves clearing Upsala’s entire 20-acre western campus.

Those demolition efforts are paving the way for the longawaited construction of Woodland Heights, a market-rate housing community that will replace the college that went bankrupt and closed in May 1995.

A model three-bedroom residence nearing completion is the vanguard to the complex, which will eventually contain 51 three and four-bedroom, single-family detached homes and 17 attached townhouses.

"Kenbrook is 100 percent removed," said developer Joseph Alpert. The Neoclassical, Palladian Revival and Colonial-styled building — with its portico, four-column entrance and carriage port — initially served as the women’s residence, then music conservatory, and finally the administration building.

"We’re in the midst of taking down the dormitories and the library," Alpert said. "We anticipate that they should be down by the end of April."

The demolition came after months of asbestos removal and site remediation efforts, as some 9,000 alumni across the globe awaited word on when the site — including Kenbrook, the Peter Froeberg residence halls, the library with its clock tower, and the Christ Chapel — would be razed.

The Alpert Group, a real estate development and management company in Fort Lee, along with the site’s co-developer, the Applied Development Co. of Hoboken , began the massive removal effort three weeks ago.

"With the death of Upsala College, many of us feel as if, when we die, there will be no one to remember Upsala, and what a wonderful place it was," Bill Taebel, a 1965 Upsala graduate who now lives in Tucson, Ariz., wrote in an e-mail. "It held such hope and aspirations, love and sharing, living together and growing up."

"Somehow, with the passing of our old friend, there is a large part of our persona that is dying, too," Taebel said. " ‘How sad it is to think that in a few years, by the end of this century, no one will remember Upsala College, or know the people who taught and learned there."

The Woodlands Estates model home under construction should be open for viewing by mid-May, when sales of all the lots will begin, Alpert predicted.

"We expect the single-family homes to start in the low-$400,000 range and the townhouses to be priced in the mid-$300,000 range," Alpert said. "The model will have a basement."

All the townhouses will feature three bedrooms with two bathrooms, but no basements.

Upsala, an independent, private liberal arts and religious-based institution, was founded in 1893 in Brooklyn, in the basement of a church. Once closely linked to both the Evangelic Lutheran Church of America and of Sweden, the college moved to a 14-acre Kenilworth site in 1898.

Following the purchase of three huge East Orange residential estates in August 1923, Upsala built its 45-acre campus there.

In 1924, Upsala opened for business, with the campus eventually featuring 25 buildings, including the mansion that was renamed Kenbrook Hall, signifying the college’s combined Kenilworth and Brooklyn roots.

The school thrived for 71 years, averaged 1,300 undergraduate, graduate and part-time students, offered 30 majors, employed 70 fulltime faculty members and featured sports team carrying the name Vikings. It had a 150,000-volume library.

The lowering of academic admission standards and mismanagement concerns began to surface by the late 1980s.

Upsala closed it doors forever on May 31, 1995, after amassing $12.5 million in debts, going bankrupt and losing its academic accreditation.

Following the 1996 bankruptcy proceedings, the East Orange Board of Education purchased the campus for $4 million. The board used existing buildings on the east campus to build the current East Orange Campus High School. It then sold the western parcel to the city of East Orange for $1.

The city-owned western parcel eventually fell into disrepair, with squatters, vandals and thieves destroying the place. In 2003, East Orange requested proposals from developers. The two chosen firms purchased the site for $1.5 million in March of last year.

Kevin C. Dilworth covers East Orange. He may be reached at or (973)

Publication:Star Ledger; Date:Apr 2, 2006; Section:East Essex County; Page Number:360

Essex Forum

Ex-Upsala student recalls the legacy

Somehow the actual demolition of Upsala College’s west campus writes an end to a part of our life that will at least live on in the east campus classrooms of the high school. A part of our lives that as long as the buildings survived might have allowed the resurrection of the college.

In July 2003, a small group of us, Greek brothers and sisters from the 1960s, walked through the Quad in front of Froeburg Hall. Suddenly, like a ghostly student brigade coming and going, came the sound of doors slamming in North Hall. In reality it was only the wind blowing through the broken windows. The demolition will soon be complete, and all that will be left are my pictures, the framed diploma, the cherished memories of campus life, and the lifelong friends who are with us today as they were 40 years ago. These are the things that can never be taken.

— Bill Taebel, Upsala class of ’65, Tucson, Ariz.

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