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HUV 30

Photographic views of Massachusetts Hall, 1850s-1960s: an inventory

Harvard University Archives

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Harvard University

© President and Fellows of Harvard College

Descriptive Summary

Call No.: HUV 30
Repository: Harvard University Archives
Title: Photographic views of Massachusetts Hall, 1850s-1960s
Date(s): 1850s-1960s
Quantity: 0.5 cubic feet (95 photographs)
Abstract: Built between 1718 and 1720, Massachusetts Hall is the oldest surviving building on Harvard University's campus, as well as the second oldest academic building in the United States, preceded only by the Wren Building at the College of William and Mary. Massachusetts Hall has served as a dormitory, barracks for Continental Army soldiers during the American Revolution, recitation rooms, lecture and examination halls, and administrative offices. The views of Massachusetts Hall provide a visual record of Harvard University's oldest surviving building, its grounds, and the surrounding area from 1795 to the mid-twentieth century, and include reproductions of eighteenth century drawings and photographs ranging from the 1850s to the mid-twentieth century, with formats such as salted paper prints, albumen prints, collodion prints, collotype prints, and a stereograph.

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 January 2016. Dates enclosed in brackets were supplied by the archivist.
Description of the Photographic views of Massachusetts Hall, 1850s-1960s, 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 Massachusetts Hall, 1850s-1960s. HUV 30, Harvard University Archives.

Related Materials

Collections in the Harvard University Archives:

Historical Note

Built between 1718 and 1720, Massachusetts Hall is the oldest surviving building on Harvard University's campus, as well as the second oldest academic building in the United States, preceded only by the Wren Building at the College of William and Mary. Massachusetts Hall has served as a dormitory, barracks for Continental Army soldiers during the American Revolution, recitation rooms, lecture and examination halls, and administrative offices. As of this writing, the first three floors are used as administrative offices, including those of the President of the University, Provost, Treasurer, and Vice Presidents, and the fourth floor is used as a freshman dormitory. The hall stands at the western edge of Harvard Yard, located adjacent to Johnston Gate.
Massachusetts Hall was designed by Harvard Presidents John Leverett and Benjamin Wadsworth and constructed at a cost of £3500, with the funding provided by the Massachusetts General Court. The Early Georgian building was originally designed as housing for 64 students, consisting of 32 chambers with two studies per chamber. It was designed to mirror Old Stoughton Hall, but built to be twice its width. Once constructed, Massachusetts Hall served as a dormitory for over 100 years, except when it housed over 600 Continental Army soldiers for a brief period during the Revolutionary War.
In 1827, the first floor was converted into recitation rooms, with the top three floors remaining as dormitories. Then, in 1870, Harvard University faced a shortage of classrooms and dormitories, and to address that problem, Harvard President Charles William Eliot oversaw the conversion of Massachusetts Hall into two stories, with each story containing lecture halls, examination rooms, and laboratories. To account for the loss of rooms, President Eliot also built new dormitories, and expanded and remodeled other existing dormitories. This classroom configuration continued until a fire destroyed the roof in 1924, at which point Massachusetts Hall was converted back into four floors of dormitory rooms. In 1939, the first two floors of the hall were remodeled again to provide administrative offices. This included the creation of the Thomas Nelson Perkins Room, which the Harvard Corporation used for their meetings. It was dedicated to Thomas Nelson Perkins in 1941 to honor his 30 years of service to the Corporation.
In 1905, a bust of James Russell Lowell was placed next to the north and then later east wall of Massachusetts Hall until its relocation to Lowell House in the 1930s. Between the 1990s and mid-2000s, administrative offices expanded onto the third floor, leaving the fourth floor to remain as a freshman dormitory. A plan proposed in 2007 by the administration to expand to the fourth floor has never come to fruition.

References

Arrangement

The photographic views of Massachusetts 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 eleven folders, with the photographs loosely arranged in chronological order within each folder. The folders are not arranged chronologically of each other. 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 views of Massachusetts Hall provide a visual record of Harvard University's oldest surviving building, its grounds, and the surrounding area from 1795 to the mid-twentieth century. The images are comprised of twentieth-century reproductions of eighteenth century drawings and photographs ranging from the 1850s to the mid-twentieth century. The images encompass a variety of photograph print processes, including salted paper prints, albumen prints, collotype prints, collodion prints, and a stereograph. Contributors include the Harvard University News Office, noted architectural photographer F.S. Lincoln, and the studio of noted photographer William Notman.
Exterior photographs show the hall and its grounds from a variety of angles, including the exterior changes to Massachusetts Hall following its 1870 remodeling, such as the replacement of the roof balustrade, and the construction during the 1924 remodeling, showing the installation of steel support beams, the relocation of the hall's plaque and the James Russell Lowell bust from the north side to the east side of the building, and removal of the east door. Some photographs display students standing or walking next to the hall in the Yard. The surrounding area and buildings are also visible, including neighboring university buildings in Harvard Yard, Johnston Gate, and the First Parish Church. Interior photographs show a lecture hall, the president's office, and the Thomas Nelson Perkins Room.

Inventory update

This document last updated 2016 September 14

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