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.


  1. 0
    Ronni says:

    @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).

  2. 0
    BTF says:

    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?

  3. 0
    Mark Kharas ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    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…

  4. 0
    Jamison ( User Karma: 0 ) says:

    If they need materials to remake the chair, can’t they use parts of New-New Dorm? I mean, seriously, priorities.

  5. 0
    Gerrit says:

    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?

  6. 0
    Lance Armstrong says:

    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.

  7. 0
    G says:

    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.

  8. 0
    big chair love says:

    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…

  9. 0
    MB '07 says:

    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.

  10. 0
    Ronni says:

    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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