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The Heart of Stanford

Photo: Andrew Brodhead

The Main Quadrangle is the heart and hallmark of Stanford University. It is the original center of the academic campus and a crossroads of an expansive campus today. Much of the Quad was heavily damaged in the 1906 earthquake and rebuilt — with the notable exception of its Memorial Arch and church steeple. The Quad houses teaching, research, and administration, and its linked malls underscore a culture of interdisciplinary endeavors across the university.

The cornerstone of the 17-acre Quad was laid on May 14, 1887 — what would have been Leland Stanford Junior’s 19th birthday. Following her husband’s death in 1893, Jane Stanford directed the continuing construction and operations of the university, built as a tribute to their only son.

A Class Legacy

The class of 1896 was the first to install a brass plaque sporting its class year in the paved arcade in front of the planned church entrance. Graduates of earlier years followed retroactively. The laying of class plaques and buried time capsules along the Inner Quad arcade has since become an annual Class Day tradition for graduating seniors.

Photo: Linda A. Cicero 

The Crown Jewel

Memorial Church is a tribute to Leland Stanford Sr. and a sanctuary for all. Built by artisans from Europe and North America, the church features extensive mosaics, intricately carved inscriptions, 140 stained-glass windows and several pipe organs. It is one of the most architecturally notable ecumenical churches in the West. Jane Stanford once noted, “While my whole heart is in the university, my soul is in that church.”