The house at 325 North 23rd Street was built in 1928 by Roscoe Q. Jarrett, realtor and builder. In 1945, the property was acquired by Dr. J. Edgar Swain (1898-1975), Muhlenberg history professor, and his wife, D. Esther Swain, the founder and principal of the Swain School. The school, founded in 1929, began as a kindergarten for the children of Muhlenberg faculty members. Over the next few years, the school expanded to nearly every room in the house.
In 1951, the Swain School moved to its current location on 24th Street, and the house was acquired by the Muhlenberg Student Fund Association, which obtain funding through sales at the College bookstore; the fund supplied $25,000 of the $45,000 purchase price, and the College supplied the rest. The building was repurposed as a “faculty house,” or club.
From February 1952 until 1958, the Sigma Phi Epsilon Fraternity (SigEp) moved into this residence when the Swains moved out. While residing here, the SigEp house was referred to as the “House with the Red Door” and was known for its outstanding social events.
In 1956, the Henry R. Mueller Memorial Library and Seminar Room (currently the dining room) was dedicated to the former head of the History Department, who joined the Muhlenberg faculty in 1920 and passed away in 1937. The large painting Pickett’s Charge, depicting the famous scene from the battle of Gettysburg, and which still hangs there today, was gifted to the College by Dorothy Neyens Thompson, in honor of her father, William Ruhe Nickum. The artist is unknown, but the painting is of the Meissonier school, and was exhibited at the Chicago World’s Fair in 1893. It was referred to in a 1942 issue of Life magazine as “one of the outstanding Civil War paintings.”
During Homecoming Weekend of 1973, the faculty house was renamed the “James E. Swain Faculty House” in honor of the retired Dr. Swain, who had served for 30 of his 42 years at Muhlenberg as the Head of the History Department.
In September, 1989, the newly renovated house was rededicated to Edwin P. Hoffman ‘64 (1942-1993), a Muhlenberg physics major and executive at Citibank and Household International, Inc. who served on the College’s Board of Trustees. The house is used by faculty, administrators, and student clubs for meetings and events.