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American University Washington, D. C.

As early as 1861, Methodist leaders had discussed the possibility of a Methodist university.

WW Corcoran had offered land. It took several decades and the determination of Bishop John Fletcher Hurst to make things happen. After a ten day search commencing in December 1889, Bishop Hurst purchased ninety acres of the Murdocks’ Friendship estate, then owned by Achsah C. Davis.

The site included the Murdock homestead, and the route for the anticipated extension of Massachusetts Avenue to the District line.

The University was incorporated in the District of Columbia in 1891 and chartered by an Act of Congress in February 1893. Its early subscribers included such nationally known people as Leland Stanford, and Susan B. Anthony.

Local subscribers included John R. McLean, William Sibley, John and Thomas Waggaman, Woodward & Lothrop, Dr. Armistead Peter and Charles C. Glover.

“The American University…is domiciled on the ninety beautiful acres (where stood Fort Gaines) that crown one of the most picturesque eminences four miles from the Capitol,…eye roams over the wooded hills and hazily charming ranges of the Blue Ridge Mountains, the luxuriant vistas of Maryland and the gracefully artistic palaces of Washington.”

Richard Wheatley, DD.

“An Interesting Account of the Great American University,” Harper’s Weekly, December 5, 1896.

During its first decade, it operated only as a graduate school, admitting men and women. At the outbreak of World War I in 1917, the American Univerisity offered its two buildings, Hurst Hall and the unfinished McKinley Hall to the War Department. 

Those few students who were enrolled began to attend classes at their professors’ homes.

Following the war, the American University grew at a much faster pace.  Undergraduates were first admitted in 1925 with the opening of the College of Liberal Arts.

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