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HUV 33

Photographic views of Hollis Hall, 1856-1959: an inventory

Harvard University Archives

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Harvard University

© President and Fellows of Harvard College

Descriptive Summary

Call No.: HUV 33
Repository: Harvard University Archives
Title: Photographic views of Hollis Hall, 1856-1959
Date(s): 1856-1959
Quantity: 0.5 cubic feet
Quantity: 97 photographs
Abstract: Hollis Hall was built in 1763 and has served as a dormitory at Harvard University for over 250 years, housing several well-known Harvard graduates and surviving a lightning strike and three fires. Hollis Hall has also accommodated student groups and the venerated English professor Charles Townsend Copeland, and for a brief period in 1775, the Georgian building was used as barracks for the Continental army. Located in the western edge of Harvard Yard, Hollis Hall stands near the Rebellion Tree and the site of the College water pump. The Photographic views of Hollis Hall provide a visual record of one of Harvard University's dormitories and eighteenth century buildings, its grounds, and the surrounding area from 1856 to 1959. All images are photograph prints, and processes include salted paper prints, albumen prints, gelatin silver prints, a stereoscope, and two transparencies.

Acquisition information:

These images were acquired by the Harvard University Archives from the late nineteenth century through the late twentieth century.

Processing Information:

This finding aid was created by Amanda Shermanin February 2016.
Description of the Photographic views of Hollis Hall, 1856-1959, was supported by the Harvard Library's Hidden Collection initiative.

Researcher Access:

Open for research.

Online access:

All of the images have been digitized and are available online. Links accompany detailed descriptions.

Preferred Citation:

Photographic views of Hollis Hall, 1856-1959. HUV 33, Harvard University Archives.

Related Materials

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Historical Note

Hollis Hall was built in 1763 and has served as a dormitory at Harvard University for over 250 years, housing several well-known Harvard graduates and surviving a lightning strike and three fires. Hollis Hall has also accommodated student groups and the venerated English professor Charles Townsend Copeland, and for a brief period in 1775, the Georgian building was used as barracks for the Continental army. Located in the western edge of Harvard Yard, Hollis Hall stands near the Rebellion Tree and the site of the College water pump.
In 1761, after sending ninety students to lodge with private families in Cambridge, the Harvard Corporation requested funds from the Massachusetts General Court to build a new dormitory. The Court provided £2,500, and Hollis Hall was completed in 1763. The dormitory was named in honor of Thomas Hollis and the Hollis family, who had been benefactors of the College for decades and had provided funds for two professorships and a scholarship for disadvantaged students. Four stories tall, Hollis Hall originally provided housing for 32 people, each with a chamber and a private study. The building was eventually remodeled to combine the chamber and study into one large room, and the rooms now each house two people.
In 1775, during the Revolutionary War, Hollis Hall was loaned to the Continental army, along with Massachusetts Hall, Stoughton Hall, and Holden Chapel. The building was temporarily converted into barracks, accommodating over 600 soldiers. In 1792, the tree that was to become the Rebellion Tree, also referred to as the Rebellion Elm, was planted by the south entrance of Hollis Hall. The tree gained its name when students began to gather under it to voice their complaints about the Harvard administration's regulations. In 1913, a pageant celebrating Hollis Hall's 150th anniversary was written by Professor George P. Baker and performed by students outside of the hall. In 1959, Hollis Hall had major renovations performed by the Architects Collaborative. Work included restoring the original wood ceiling beams and wall paneling, installing new plumbing and wiring, building more bookcases and closets, installing new floors, and modernizing the bathrooms.
Hollis Hall has survived its share of near-disasters. Just days after Hollis Hall's dedication, the neighboring Harvard Hall was destroyed by a fire, and despite its close proximity, Hollis Hall survived with little damage. Five years after its completion, Hollis Hall survived another brush with destruction when it was struck by lightning in 1768. It survived its first fire in 1876, in which the Pi Eta Society's rooms and the roof were damaged. The second fire at Hollis Hall occurred in 1904 and caused $5,000 of damage in room twenty-two. The third fire occurred in 1937 in room thirteen and was caused by a radio short circuiting.
Several student groups have been active in Hollis Hall, especially in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. The loss of Harvard Hall and the property inside in a fire was devastating, and as a result, the College soon after acquired a fire engine. Students living in Hollis Hall formed the Engine Society to operate the fire engine because both the College water pump and the fire engine, stored in Holden Chapel, were nearby. Because fires at Harvard were rare, the Engine Society also volunteered when fires broke out in Cambridge and surrounding towns. Then, around the time of the Revolutionary War, Harvard juniors and seniors created the Marti-Mercurian Band, a student military organization that stored its armory in the attic of Hollis Hall. Members of the band trained, performed drills, and went on expeditions in the surrounding area. The organization existed from 1769 to 1787 and was revived from 1811 to 1834 as the Harvard Washington Corps. In 1818, a secret society called the Medical Faculty Society, often abbreviated to Med. Fac., was formed in Hollis Hall. The group, famously responsible for pranking Harvard over its years of existence, existed until 1834 when Harvard administration disbanded them, although the society likely continued covertly until 1936. The Hasty Pudding Club, a theatrical student society, performed its first production, Bombastes Furioso, in room eleven of Hollis Hall in 1844. The Pi Eta Society, formerly one of Harvard's final clubs that produced theatrical plays, was housed in part of the fourth floor of Hollis Hall for a time. In 1876, its room was the primary site of damage in the building's first fire.
Over its 250-year history, Hollis Hall's residents have included Charles Francis Adams, Horatio Alger, Jr., Joseph Hodges Choate, Benjamin Robbins Curtis, Caleb Cushing, Charles William Eliot, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Edward Everett, Joseph P. Kennedy, Jr., Samuel Longfellow, Wendell Phillips, William H. Prescott, George Santayana, Charles Sumner, Henry David Thoreau, John Updike, and William Weld. Venerated English professor Charles Copeland Townsend also lived in Hollis Hall, and in his rooms, he held renowned Monday evening socials for students, which occasionally included special guests such as Robert Frost and Ernest Hemingway.

References

Arrangement

The photographic views of Hollis Hall has a legacy arrangement reflecting over 100 years of interfiling individual photographs of the structure from many sources into one collection. The images are arranged into ten folders, with the photographs loosely arranged in chronological order.This collection is part of the Harvard University Archives Photograph Collection: Views, in which Archives staff compiled images, whether acquired individually or removed from larger collections, and arranged them in categories based on locations, buildings, or landscape features for ease of reference.

Scope and Content

The Photographic views of Hollis Hall provide a visual record of one of Harvard University's dormitories and eighteenth century buildings, its grounds, and the surrounding area from 1856 to 1959. All images are photograph prints, and processes include salted paper prints, albumen prints, gelatin silver prints, a stereoscope, and two transparencies. The 97 images have primarily been gifts of individuals or contributed by the Harvard Alumni Bulletin; three images are from the studio of William Notman, two of which are copied from negatives held by the Notman Photographic Archives at McCord Museum in Montréal.
Exterior photographs show Hollis Hall and the grounds from a variety of angles. The images also show students standing in the Yard, the Rebellion Tree, the 150th anniversary pageant, the damage caused by the 1876 fire, and spectators watching the 1904 fire. The surrounding area and buildings are also visible, including neighboring University buildings in Harvard Yard. Interior photographs include the Pi Eta Society room, Charles Townsend Copeland's room, and a passageway, stairs, and room after the 1959 renovations.

Inventory update

This document last updated 2016 March 24.

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