The Big Chair: End of an Era

Editor’s note: This article was initially published in The Daily Gazette, Swarthmore’s online, daily newspaper founded in Fall 1996. As of Fall 2018, the DG has merged with The Phoenix. See the about page to read more about the DG.

I write a “Where is the Big Chair?” Ask the Gazette about three or four times every year. Each time, we’re sent a panicked e-mail from a concerned student, and each time Vice President of Facilities Stu Hain responds with a reassuring e-mail that it’ll be back soon, that it’s just going under some maintenance work.

But it is with a heavy heart that I report this devastating piece of news. According to Hain, the Big Chair, as we’ve known it for the past couple of years, is not going to appear ever again. “When Jake Beckman [’04] built the chair it was as a piece of art and not built of materials that would hold up under the stresses they received,” Hain explained. “We fixed it many times. It is now beyond our ability to make it safe without changing Jake’s intent.” Readers will recall Hain explaining earlier this year that the chair needed extra maintenance, as well as a longer than usual winter hibernation last year.

Have heart, dear readers. Though perhaps we shall not see the original Big Chair again, Facilities is working with Beckman and a structural engineer to design a new chair built from more sound materials. “We hope Jake will begin that work later this spring as his schedule permits,” says Hain.

Though this may provide some consolation to members of the Swarthmore community, The Big Chair shall always be in our hearts. Big Chair: You will be missed.

Please leave thoughts, prayers, memories, and kinds words in the comments section.

0 thoughts on “The Big Chair: End of an Era

  • April 24, 2008 at 2:09 am
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    What are we going to sit on this spring?!

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  • April 24, 2008 at 8:04 am
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    This is terrible! I hope they re-build it for next spring! Beckman, get on that! Please!

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  • April 24, 2008 at 10:26 am
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    Worst news ever for the class of ’08. (Possibly good news for the bookstore; they can print commemorative T-shirts for nostalgic seniors to buy….)

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  • April 24, 2008 at 11:27 am
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    And nostalgic alums…
    I talked to someone last week who had been to Swat once for the Peace Collection and the first thing he mentioned was the chair.

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  • April 24, 2008 at 12:07 pm
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    Jim Bock once told me that the Big Chair gets mentioned a surprising amount in the Why Swarthmore? essays. If if applications drop off next year, I hope he cites the loss of this clearly very powerful incentive as one of the reasons…

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  • April 24, 2008 at 2:26 pm
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    oh no! This is terrible for those of us who waited too long to take pictures with the big chair. 🙁

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  • April 24, 2008 at 4:38 pm
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    Aye, tis with a heavy harrt that we say “Faretheewell” to the Great White Chair that once lounged in bliss on the beach of Parrish lawn. I remember when I was but a wee spec sitting in it and admiring its overly large saize and slightly faaded white qualities. It truly was the tickle in the gloom of a despairing atmosphere. There will never bee another that can truly replace its majesty, and we will always hold it sacred in the pit of our hearts.

    …I hope they put in a jaccuzi.

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  • April 24, 2008 at 5:17 pm
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    Quoting m from above:

    “NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!”

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  • April 24, 2008 at 7:59 pm
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    I’m proud to have belonged to the grand tradition, however brief, of sitting in that majestic Big Chair, both as a spec, and as a student. Big Chair, you will be missed indeed.

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  • April 24, 2008 at 9:22 pm
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    this is the worst thing I’ve ever heard

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  • April 24, 2008 at 10:07 pm
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    It would be really awesome if they actually did build a replica Big Chair that would last through the ages. Now that that chair has become enamored in our hearts, I feel Swarthmore needs to amend the situation. Honestly, they built David Kemp in months… how hard can it be to build a big chair?

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  • April 25, 2008 at 2:48 am
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    If they need materials to remake the chair, can’t they use parts of New-New Dorm? I mean, seriously, priorities.

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  • April 25, 2008 at 9:54 am
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    I had a dream last night that the big chair came back to life, or the new big chair was revealed. I’m not sure which it was, but in any event it brought me hope. Until I woke up and realized it was just a dream…

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  • April 28, 2008 at 2:39 am
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    The last time I sat in the big chair, it felt pretty sturdy to me. Is the big chair really so worn out that it might collapse under the weight of 3 or 4 students?

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  • April 28, 2008 at 11:36 am
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    @BTF, I’m guessing that there are more scientific ways to estimate the chair’s carrying capacity! Also, it was often made to hold much more than 3-4 students. (Think of what people would put it through for graduation group photos).

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  • April 29, 2009 at 1:39 pm
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    To the happiness of current students, the Big Chair 2.0 has made it's debut. It looks identical to the old one.

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  • April 29, 2009 at 2:19 pm
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    One of the things I hope to do before I graduate is to do the nasty on the big chair

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  • April 29, 2009 at 3:51 pm
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    I hope (and think) you will fail miserably.

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  • April 29, 2009 at 4:21 pm
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    I hope (but don't think) they will fail miserably.

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  • April 29, 2009 at 10:58 pm
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    Like a Phoenix from its ashes.
    Hallelujah!

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  • April 30, 2009 at 4:55 pm
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    it's beautiful, brings big-chair-y tears to my eyes

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