About and History
Built in 1888 and designed by architect T.P. Lonsdale, this limestone building on the corner of 34 th Street and Powelton Avenue has been named one of the great houses in Philadelphia's historic Powelton Village neighborhood. It was designed in the Victorian gothic style for Pennsylvania Railroad magnate Max Riebenack, III, a passenger agent for the Pennsylvania Railroad.
The house stayed with the Riebenack family until 1928 when the Drexel Institute of Technology acquired the building and three separate plots of land owned by the Riebenack estate for $125,000. It then became the third location of the Home Management House for female majors of the Domestic Science and Arts Department in 1929. A nursery school was located on the first floor and Home Management offices and spaces on the top floors. Women living in the house would experience many skills first-hand, including childcare and tending a home.
In the 1950s, the building was named the Grace Godfrey Home Management House, after Grace Godfrey, the second Director of Home Economics and Advisor to Women. One photograph in the 1957 Drexel University Lexerd yearbook depicts women sitting around the piano and entertaining in the dining room.
"Mopping, Marketing, Mending, and Managing are only a few of the practical doings of Senior Home Economics Majors when they spend six weeks in the Grace Godfrey Home Management House. Under conditions they will encounter when they manage a home of their own, the students meet and solve with expert knowledge and confidence the everyday problems of 'housekeeping' and even those extra special occasions, 'entertaining'." Senior Home Economics Majors utilized this facility for the next 40 years.
In 1991, an electrical fire on the first floor daycare closed the building for ten years. In 2001, a generous donation from alumnus and former chairman of the Board of Trustees, George Ross '55, Hon. '99 and his wife Lyn, made possible the renovations to the mansion, converting it into a student center on the north side of campus.
Following an extensive $5.2 million renovation project, on June 5, 2003 the building was dedicated and renamed the Ross Commons in honor of benefactors George and Lyn Ross. Having been greatly involved in student life at Drexel during his time as a student, Mr. Ross dedicated the new facility to students to use as a dining, study, and activity center. Victorian style found in tiled fireplaces, opulent furnishings, and a grand staircase, combined with Drexel technology - including wireless internet - makes Ross Commons a significant landmark on the Drexel University campus.
Today, Ross Commons totals 17,500 square feet featuring café dining and two eateries (Sabrina's Café and Spencer's Burgers) on the first floor. The 2nd Floor lounge areas hold pool tables, plasma TVs, and comfortable sofa seating. An information office is also located on the second floor. The third floor houses Drexel administrative offices, one traditional conference room, a computer lab with printer/copier, and one meeting room with audio visual aids.
George M. Ross '55, Hon. '99 (1933-2011)
An executive committee member and former chairman of the Board of Trustees of Drexel University, George M. Ross had long been a pillar of the Drexel and Philadelphia communities. Mr. Ross was honored as Drexel's Business Leader of the Year in 1989, and was inducted into the Drexel 100 in 1992. He was a senior director of Goldman, Sachs & Co. and was with the investment banking establishment since 1959, when he started as a sales associate in the firm's Philadelphia office. Mr. Ross was a member of the boards of the American Jewish Committee, the Avenue of the Arts, Business Leadership Organized for Catholic Schools, the Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce, the National Museum of Jewish History, One-to-One: The National Mentoring Partnership, the Philadelphia Orchestra Association, the Regional Performing Arts Center, the University of Pennsylvania Cancer Center and the Washington Institute.
Lyn M. Ross
Lyn M. Ross attended the University of Pennsylvania and was awarded an honorary doctor of laws degree from Chestnut Hill College. Mrs. Ross is active in support of many civic, cultural and charitable organizations. She is an executive committee member and former president of the Board of Directors of the National Museum of Jewish History, and serves on the board of WHYY, the Federation of Jewish Agencies and the Friends of the Stiffel Center. She served on the 20th Century Committee of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, was a member of the boards of the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts and the Mann Music Center and has been active with the Pennsylvania Council for the Arts, the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation and Albert Einstein Medical Center, among other organizations.
Above: George and Lyn Ross