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HUV 30.2

Photographic views of Harvard Hall, 1764, 1841-1968: an inventory

Harvard University Archives

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Harvard University

© President and Fellows of Harvard College

Descriptive Summary

Call No.: HUV 30.2
Repository: Harvard University Archives
Title: Photographic views of Harvard Hall, 1764, 1841-1968
Date(s): 1850-1968
Quantity: 0.5 cubic feet
Quantity: 158 photographs
Abstract: On the western edge of Harvard Yard stands Harvard Hall, the fourth oldest building on Harvard University's campus. It was built from 1765 to 1766 to replace the previous Harvard Hall, which was destroyed by a fire in January 1764. Harvard Hall was the first building in America to be designed exclusively for academic uses, originally housing Harvard's chapel, library, commons, kitchen, classrooms, and philosophy chamber, now referred to as a physics laboratory. After the chapel and commons were transferred to University Hall upon its completion in 1814, Harvard Hall served entirely as a library, laboratory, and classroom building. It also was used briefly as a barracks by the Continental Army in 1775 during the Revolutionary War. At the time of this writing, Harvard Hall has been converted entirely into classrooms. Harvard Hall is adjacent to Johnston Gate, the main entrance to Harvard Yard. The Photographic views of Harvard Hall provide a visual record of America's first building designed exclusively for academic uses and Harvard University's fourth oldest building, its grounds, and the surrounding area from 1764 to 1968. The 158 images comprise of reproductions of drawings and photograph prints, and formats include salted paper prints, albumen prints, gelatin silver prints, collotype prints, and letterpress halftone prints.

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 Sherman in March 2016. Dates enclosed in brackets were supplied by the archivist.
Description of the Photographic views of Harvard Hall, 1764, 1841-1968, was supported by the Harvard Library's Hidden Collections initiative.

Researcher Access:

Open for research.

Preferred Citation:

Photographic views of Harvard Hall, 1764, 1841-1968. HUV 30.2, Harvard University Archives.

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Historical Note

On the western edge of Harvard Yard stands Harvard Hall, the fourth oldest building on Harvard University's campus. It was built from 1765 to 1766 to replace the previous Harvard Hall, which was destroyed by a fire in January 1764. Harvard Hall was the first building in America to be designed exclusively for academic uses, originally housing Harvard's chapel, library, commons, kitchen, classrooms, and philosophy chamber, now referred to as a physics laboratory. After the chapel and commons were transferred to University Hall upon its completion in 1814, Harvard Hall served entirely as a library, laboratory, and classroom building. It also was used briefly as a barracks by the Continental Army in 1775 during the Revolutionary War. At the time of this writing, Harvard Hall has been converted entirely into classrooms. Harvard Hall is adjacent to Johnston Gate, the main entrance to Harvard Yard.
On January 26, 1764, the first Harvard Hall, completed in 1672, was destroyed in a fire, along with most of Harvard's 5,000 volume library collection, the belongings of the student residents, and all of its philosophical apparatus, or physics equipment. Because the Massachusetts General Court was using the building at the time of the fire, it assumed responsibility and agreed to fund the construction of a new building. Designed by Governor Francis Bernard and built by Thomas Dawes, the new Harvard Hall was erected on the same site as its predecessor in a High Georgian and early Federal style, and it was completed in 1766 at a cost of £6,100. Donations from alumni and other regular donors, such as the Province of New Hampshire, helped to refurnish the building and to rebuild the library collection. One notable donor was John Hancock, who donated natural history objects, £500 sterling to the library, and funds to carpet part of the building and paper the philosophy chamber walls. The building served similar purposes as its predecessor, except that it did not contain any student housing. On the first floor, the chapel stood in the western half of the building and the commons in the eastern half. The second floor contained the library in the western half, with two classrooms and the philosophy chamber, along with a collection of natural history objects, in the eastern half. The philosophical chamber was the classroom of John Winthrop, the renowned scientist who served as the second Hollis Chair of Mathematics and Natural Philosophy at Harvard from 1738 to 1779. The kitchen was in the basement, and a staircase ran down the center of the building. In 1775, the Continental Army used the building as barracks for the troops, and by the end of their occupation, they had used 1,000 pounds of lead from Harvard Hall's roof to make musket balls.
Harvard Hall has gone through four major shifts in 1814, 1842, 1870, and 1968. The first shift occurred when University Hall was completed in 1814. The chapel and commons moved to University Hall, and the first floor of Harvard Hall was remodeled with the classrooms and philosophy chamber moving downstairs. The library expanded into the eastern half of the second floor to encompass the entire floor. The relocation of the commons also meant the relocation of the Commencement banquet, which had been held at Harvard Hall from 1766 to 1814. However, by 1842, the commons in University Hall had become too small for the banquet, leading the Society of the Alumni to campaign for a more accommodating space. The University then remodeled the first floor of Harvard Hall by removing all of the room partitions, creating one large, open commons room with several cast iron columns to support the second floor. The Commencement banquet was held in this room from 1842 to 1871. At the same time, the University built an addition to the front wall of the building: a small two-story pavilion protruding from the center of the wall.
In 1870, the pavilion addition was expanded to create more lecture hall and laboratory space, as well as provide storage space for the science department. This was accomplished by pushing the original front wall out until it was flush with the front of the pavilion on both sides, thus making the building rectangular again rather than T-shaped, and partitioning the previously open room. The architects, Ware and Van Brunt, built the addition with such care that the pattern of the brickwork and foundation seamlessly matched the original part of the building. They added pilasters between the new addition windows that match the pilasters on Holden Chapel, as well as windows on the eastern wall of the first floor, which previously had no windows. The last remodeling occurred in 1968, when the entire interior was modernized to meet fire safety requirements and provide educational technology improvements, such as projectors and screens. The exterior remained unchanged during this remodel.

References

Arrangement

The photographic views of Harvard 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 thirteen 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.This collection was previously classified as HUV 30B.

Scope and Content

The Photographic views of Harvard Hall provide a visual record of America's first building designed exclusively for academic uses and Harvard University's fourth oldest building, its grounds, and the surrounding area from 1764 to 1968. The 158 images are comprised of photograph prints and reproductions of drawings, and formats include salted paper prints, albumen prints, gelatin silver prints, collotype prints, and letterpress halftone prints. The images have been gifts of individuals or contributed by the Harvard Alumni Bulletin, the Harvard University News Office, or the Harvard University Press. A series of twenty-one photographs dated 1935-1936 are attributed to Samuel E. Morison, a distinguished historian and professor of history at Harvard. This collection also has two photographs from the studio of noted photographer William Notman and one by George K. Warren, who was known for his celebrity portraits.
The drawings included in the collection consist of a 1764 engraving by naturalist Pierre Eugène du Simitière, sketches by architectural historian and Harvard professor Kenneth Conant, and a 1939 drawing representing the reading room as it appeared in 1790. Exterior photographs show Harvard Hall from a variety of angles, and some include students standing or walking on the steps of the building or in Harvard Yard, such as the group photograph of the class of 1864. Another photograph from the studio of William Notman depicts two photographers standing next to their camera in the late 1880s. These exterior photographs also depict Harvard Hall before and after its 1870 addition, showing the building with its pavilion and then with the completed first floor extension. A series of 1967 photographs show the exterior of the building before its 1968 interior renovation. Interior photographs include images of the large first floor commons that was in place from 1842 to 1870, a physics laboratory in 1865, and classrooms prior to the 1968 interior renovation, and the Samuel E. Morison photographs show the basement kitchen, including the cooking hearth and wood fired oven, as well as lecture halls with and without students sitting at the desks.

Inventory update

This document last updated 2016 April 13.

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