Everyone knows the story: both Kenyon and Gambier are named for the aristocrats across the pond that gave a large chunk of the change that made the creation of Kenyon possible. Acland Street, Duff Street, Gaskin Avenue, Ward Street, Marriott Park and many other fixtures on campus owe their names to the benefactors and friends that supported Philander Chase in his endeavor of founding an Episcopal seminary and college in Ohio.
One street, however, is notably not named for a founding benefactor of the College, but rather for a New York City borough. Brooklyn Street runs parallel to Wiggins Street, connecting Rothenberg Hillel House, trailheads to the Brown Family Environmental Center, Campus Auto and the College Township Fire Department, among other campus hotspots. Rather than being named for a prominent Anglican, Brooklyn Street is simply named for the New York City borough.
Brooklyn, the most populous of New York City’s boroughs, derives its name from the Dutch word for marshland. Charles Petit McIlvaine, Kenyon’s second president, came to Kenyon from Brooklyn and brought the borough’s name with him, renaming what used to be Hoare Street.
President McIlvaine came to the job in 1832 and was not a fan of Hoare Street. Philander Chase had named the street for Henry Hoare, an English friend and supporter of Chase, according to a piece written and provided by Kenyon Historian and Keeper of Kenyoniana Thomas Stamp ’73.
According to Stamp, McIlvaine had no problems with Hoare as a person, but he did not find the images conjured up by the name to be compatible with the mission of a school that, at the time, educated young men in the Episcopal tradition.
“It was because H-O-A-R-E sounds like W-H-O-R-E,” Stamp said.
The name Brooklyn and the presidency of McIlvaine, on the other hand, are inextricably linked to Kenyon’s Episcopal heritage.
McIlvaine was fond of Brooklyn. Before moving to Ohio, McIlvaine served as rector of St. Ann’s Episcopal Church in Brooklyn which, according to Stamp, was a prominent church of the time.
McIlvaine, who later became Bishop of Ohio, is perhaps one of the more impressive Kenyon presidents. After serving in the prominent roles of St. Ann’s rector and president of Kenyon, he became a key figure in Anglican politics around the time of the Civil War.
In fact, former U.S. President Abraham Lincoln sent McIlvaine to the United Kingdom, where he traversed Buckingham Palace, Westminster and Oxford University in hopes of convincing the British government out of recognizing the Confederate States of America as a nation.
While ostensibly neutral, the kingdom had supplied the Confederacy with guns and ammunition. Ultimately, the United Kingdom remained neutral in the Civil War.
Still, McIlvaine, the anti-slavery, pro-Union Anglican, was widely respected in both the United States and the United Kingdom. To this day, he is the only American to have been lain-in-state at Westminster after his death in 1873.
As for Brooklyn Street, the name does not strike symbolism among Kenyon’s current Brooklynites.
Lev Rosenbush ’22, who lives in Crown Heights, a neighborhood in the center of Brooklyn, said he was indifferent to the name. Compared to Hoare Street, though, he was partial to the newer name.
“Brooklyn sounds better in every way,” he said.