Humanities & Culture

Bye Bye, Bernie

Bascom Hall

Bascom Hall, ca. 1909.

This issue’s Flashback is somewhat bittersweet as we say farewell to Bernie Schermetzler ’76, our favorite archivist at the UW Libraries. You may not recognize Schermetzler’s name (and goodness knows it’s difficult to spell), but for three decades, he was the custodian for the UW’s photo archives. Virtually every old picture of campus you’ve seen in these pages came from his collection, where he kept thousands upon thousands of prints, negatives, slides, and transparencies safe and catalogued by subject. He retired in July, and we’ll miss him.

We asked Schermetzler to select his favorite archival photo, and he chose the shot you see above, a hand-colored print of Bascom Hall taken circa 1909. What’s so special about it, other than the hand-coloring? Two details jump out.

First, Bascom has that dome, which looks oddly out of place to modern eyes. It went up in smoke during a fire in October 1916.

Second, and more subtle, is the Lincoln statue. If you look closely, you’ll see that it isn’t where you remember it being. Sculptor Adolph Weinman and philanthropist Thomas Brittingham donated the statue to campus in 1909 to celebrate the centennial of Abe’s birth. It was initially sited between North and South Halls, but in 1919, it was moved about a hundred feet uphill to a specially constructed terrace — the Lincoln Terrace — directly in front of Bascom Hall, where it has sat ever since.

Happy trails, Bernie. Thanks for keeping our UW memories alive.

Published in the Fall 2010 issue


  • Janet Jensen September 30, 2010

    Bernie —

    With your help I located a sketch of the old poultry building that was a huge part of my father’s undergrad life on campus. In his last years, it triggered memories in a mind compromised by illness. I thank you, and the others involved in that search, from the bottom of my heart.

    Janet Jensen

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