Fritz Engineering Laboratory

The original laboratory was funded and designed by John Fritz, another University Trustee. Fritz was an important figure in the Pennsylvania iron and steel industry and personal friend of Asa Packer. In 1902 the American Societies for Civil, Mechanical and Electrical Engineering created the John Fritz Gold Medal to honor him. Fritz was a trustee from 1865 – 1882 and again from 1907 to his death in 1913. To Lehigh University president, Charles Taylor, Fritz writes in his Autobiography, “In my will I have left Lehigh University a certain sum of money, to be expended in your discretion. I now intend to revoke that bequest and instead of leaving money for you to spend after I’m gone, I’m going to have fun spending it with you…you need an up-to-date engineering laboratory and I intend to build one for you.” Fritz designed his laboratory on a building model he had used earlier for the Bethlehem Iron Company, the No. 2 Machine Shop. At the time the Laboratory was built it was considered state-of-the-art. In June 1910, when it was dedicated, Fritz Laboratory symbolized Lehigh’s dedication to an excellent engineering education. The original building contained many state-of-the-art testing machines including the 800,000 pound Riehle universal testing machine. This machine tested many structural components including sections of the gates of the Panama Canal and the cable anchorages of the first Tacoma Narrows Bridge which were a unique design made by Bethlehem Steel Corporation. Fritz Laboratory was expanded in 1954-1955 to include the world’s largest testing machine for the era, the Baldwin-Lima-Hamilton five-million pound universal testing machine. This machine tested the structural frame of Telstar, the United States’ first communications satellite. In 1985, the Lab was again expanded. The structural engineering aspects of civil engineering moved to Mountaintop Campus into the ATLSS (Advanced Technology of Structural Systems) laboratory which was dedicated to Herbert R. Imbt, a member of the Class of 1938, to honor his bequests to civil engineering. Mr. Imbt originally funded an improvement in the hydraulics laboratory located within the original Fritz Laboratory building. In 1992 the original Fritz Laboratory was named a Civil Engineering Landmark by American Society of Civil Engineers. Fritz Engineering Laboratory is the headquarters of the Civil Engineering Department.