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HUV 166

Photographic views of Memorial Hall, 1873-1968: an inventory

Harvard University Archives

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Harvard University

© President and Fellows of Harvard College

Descriptive Summary

Call No.: HUV 166
Repository: Harvard University Archives
Title: Photographic views of Memorial Hall, 1873-1968
Date(s): 1873-1968
Quantity: 1 cubic feet (252 photographs)
Language of materials: English
Abstract: Located just north of Harvard Yard, Memorial Hall is a memorial constructed between 1870 and 1877 to honor Harvard University students and alumni who had been killed while fighting for the Union cause during the Civil War. In addition, Memorial Hall contains Annenberg Hall (formerly Alumni Hall), which has served as student commons and a multi-use venue for exams, dances, and banquets; and Sanders Theatre, which hosted Commencement exercises and has functioned as a lecture hall and performance space. The Photographic views of Memorial Hall provide a visual record of one of Harvard University's memorials, dining halls, and theatres, as well as its grounds and surroundings from 1873 to 1968. The 252 images include photographs, postcards, and reproductions of drawings. Formats include albumen prints, collodion prints, gelatin silver prints, collotype prints, and letterpress halftone prints. The collection also contains a color slide, a stereograph, and a list of the stained glass windows in Memorial Hall.

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 May 2016.
Description of the Photographic views of Memorial Hall, 1873-1968, 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 Memorial Hall, 1873-1968. HUV 166, Harvard University Archives.

Related Materials

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Historical Note on Memorial Hall

Located just north of Harvard Yard, Memorial Hall is a memorial honoring Harvard University students and alumni who had been killed while fighting for the Union cause during the Civil War. In addition, Memorial Hall contains Annenberg Hall (formerly Alumni Hall), which has served as student commons and a multi-use venue for exams, dances, and banquets; and Sanders Theatre, which hosted Commencement exercises and has functioned as a lecture hall and performance space. Memorial Hall is the result of the first large-scale fundraising effort undertaken by Harvard alumni, raising $370,000, and a $40,000 bequest from Charles Sanders, Harvard College Class of 1802. The Victorian Gothic building was designed by Henry Van Brunt, Harvard College Class of 1854, and Henry Robert Ware, Harvard College Class of 1852. Construction began in the fall of 1870 and was completed in 1877. The alumni legally turned over the completed building to the University in 1878.
Discussions among alumni of building a memorial began as early as 1863, and a petition to the University to allow them to raise funds to build Memorial Hall was accepted in 1865. The alumni created a committee for the effort called the Committee of Fifty, which was chaired by Charles Greely Loring, Harvard College Class of 1812, and they raised $370,000 between 1865 and 1868. Around the same time, Charles Sanders bequeathed $40,000 to the University to build a theatre, and the two projects were combined to make each more feasible. The Committee of Fifty also elected to include a hall in the plans, to serve as a meeting space for alumni and to host the traditional Commencement banquet that occurred every June for alumni and graduating students. The Committee wished to preserve the solemnity of the memorial by building it apart from Harvard Yard, but it also needed to be near campus. The most appealing location was the Delta, a triangular plot of land named for its resemblance to the Greek letter that was being used as the University's athletic field. The alumni acquired and traded Jarvis Field, now the site of Harvard Law School, for the Delta, as the school would not relinquish the land without a new athletic field.
In 1865, the Committee opened a design competition to prominent architects, accepting blind entries in order to ensure the best design was chosen without bias. The design by Henry Robert Ware and Henry Van Brunt was chosen, and it was further refined while raising funds. The design was inspired by the Ruskin Gothic style, which came to prominence in England during the 1860s, and the theories of architect Eugène Violett-le-Duc. The building was designed to be arranged in three main segments, Sanders Theatre on the west side, the memorial transept in the center, and Annenberg Hall on the east, plus a clock tower and basement. Construction began with the cornerstone laying in October 1870; Reverend Phillips Brooks presided over the ceremony and Oliver Wendell Holmes composed a hymn for the occasion. Alumni Hall and the memorial transept were completed and dedicated in 1874. Sanders Theatre was completed in 1875 and was used for the first time for the 1876 Commencement exercises. The tower was completed in 1877.
The 2,600 square foot memorial transept is outfitted with sixty-foot high wooden Gothic vaulted ceilings, two stained glass windows at 708 square feet each, black walnut paneling, and stenciled walls. Twenty-eight marble plaques line the walls, bearing the names of 138 men of Harvard who died for the Union cause during the Civil War. Both of the two main entrances enter into the memorial transept, one on the north side of the building and the other on the south. The stained glass windows are situated above the entrances. The north entrance originally housed a window by Donald MacDonald, which was replaced by Sarah Wyman Whitman's Martin Brimmer Memorial Window in 1898. The south entrance housed MacDonald's Virtues window, until 1902 or 1903, when the two windows were swapped. The transept provides entryways into both Sanders Theatre and Annenberg Hall.
For 60 years, Memorial Hall's basement was used for a kitchen, restrooms, and storage and mechanical space. In 1940, the area of the basement beneath Sanders Theatre was rebuilt to become the Psycho-Acoustic Laboratory, which performed secret research on noise reduction and communications in combat vehicles and aircraft during World War II. The basement also housed the early experiments of psychologist and behaviorist B.F. Skinner, in which he studied conditioned behavior. Early sonar experimentation also took place in the Memorial Hall basement. In 1946, the basement was renovated to provide laboratories, an animal room, classrooms, a lecture hall, and a library for the Department of Psychology until the department moved to William James Hall in 1964. From 1964 to 1996, twenty student organizations and administrative units maintained their offices under Annenberg Hall, and WHRB, the Harvard University student radio station, operated in the eastern part of the basement. The Loker Commons opened in 1996 and was renovated in 2007 to provide three music practice rooms, a lunch area for upperclassmen, and the Cambridge Queen's Head Pub.
The tower of Memorial Hall was the final part of the building to be completed in 1877. Twenty years later, in 1897, the Class of 1872 gave the University a clock and bell for Memorial Hall's tower as a twenty-fifth anniversary gift. Then, in 1956, the wooden substructure of the tower caught on fire while crews were working to restore the tower after the iron cresting was removed and donated for the war effort during World War II. The entire wood portion of the tower was destroyed, along with the clock, and the bell was cracked. The University performed minimal repairs to the damage until 1976, when the slate roofs were restored and the iron cresting was replaced on the peaks of the four small spires.

Historical Note on Sanders Theatre

Sanders Theatre was added to the plans for Memorial Hall when Charles Sanders, an alumni and college steward from 1827 to 1831, bequeathed $40,000 for a theatre. He wished to provide a suitable location for Commencement exercises, Class Days, Exhibition Days, meetings for alumni, and any other public University occasions. The design, noted for its acoustics, was inspired by Christopher Wren's Sheldonian Theatre in Oxford, England. Sanders Theatre seats 1,000 people, and the seating is arranged 180 degrees around the stage. Two statues flank the stage: one of James Otis by Thomas Crawford to the right, and one of Josiah Quincy by William Wetmore Storey to the left. John La Forge's stained glass piece Athena Tying a Mourning Fillet is situated in the rear of the balcony, and the exterior gables of the theatre feature the busts of seven famed orators: Demosthenes, Cicero, St. Chrysostom, Jacques-Bénigne Bossuet, Edmund Burke, Daniel Webster, and William Pitt, First Earl of Chatham. The theatre served as the venue for Commencement exercises from 1876 to 1922, and in 1923, the exercises were moved outdoors to Sever Quadrangle to provide more space for the families and friends of the graduating class. The annual Phi Beta Kappa induction ceremony and the Charles Eliot Norton Lectures are held in Sanders Theatre, and several notable figures have spoken in the theatre, including Winston Churchill, Theodore Roosevelt, and Martin Luther King, Jr. It is also now home to undergraduate choirs and orchestral groups and a venue for professional ensembles, such as the Boston Philharmonic Orchestra, the Boston Chamber Music Society, Christmas Revels, Masterworks Chorale, and Boston Baroque.

Historical Note on Annenberg Hall

Annenberg Hall, originally named Alumni Hall, is a 9,000 square foot room that was built to provide a venue for the traditional Commencement banquet, where alumni and the graduating class dine together, and to provide meeting space for the alumni. The design was inspired by the great halls at Oxford University and Cambridge University in England, and it consisted of hammerbeam trusses, a stenciled ceiling, walnut paneling, and space for paintings and sculptures of Harvard's founders, benefactors, faculty, presidents, and graduates, as well as stained glass windows. After the success of Thayer Commons caused it to become overcrowded, the Committee also decided to use the hall as a student commons, and the University provided $40,000 to add a basement kitchen, heating system, and furniture, which the student-run organization that managed the commons would pay back with interest. An addition was built in 1908 to provide space for a serving pantry. The commons operated from 1874 to 1926, when the number of students dining at Memorial Hall declined. From 1926 to 1994, the hall became a venue for dances, banquets, class registrations, blood drives, exams, and rehearsals. The hall became a dining hall for first year students after a restoration of Memorial Hall from 1987 to 1996 that was funded by Walter Annenberg and the Annenberg Foundation. The restoration included new flooring, custom designed furniture and light fixtures inspired by the originals, a new state of the art kitchen, and upgraded heating and air conditioning systems. All the artwork was cleaned and restored, including the stained glass windows, which were also repaired and releaded. Alumni Hall was renamed Annenberg Hall in honor of Walter's son, Roger, who passed away in 1962.

References

Arrangement

The Photographic views of Memorial 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 twenty-five folders, with the photographs loosely arranged in chronological order. Folders 1 to 11 are in Box 1, and Folders 12 to 25 are in Box 2.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 Memorial Hall provide a visual record of one of Harvard University's memorials, dining halls, and theatres, as well as its grounds and surroundings from 1873 to 1968. The 252 images include photographs, postcards, and reproductions of drawings. Formats include albumen prints, collodion prints, gelatin silver prints, collotype prints, and letterpress halftone prints. The collection also contains a color slide of Annenberg Hall, a stereograph, and a list of the stained glass windows in Memorial Hall. Images in the collection have primarily been contributed by the Harvard Film Service, the Harvard University News Office, the Harvard Alumni Bulletin, and gifts of individuals. Some photographs were taken by the studio of William Notman, noted architectural photographer F. S. Lincoln, and noted photographers Werner Wolff and Arthur Griffin.
Exterior photographs show Memorial Hall and the grounds from a variety of angles. Images show each of the main parts of the building, including the memorial transept entrance, Annenberg Hall, the clock tower, and Sanders Theatre, as well as the statue of John Harvard, which stood west of Memorial Hall until it was moved to University Hall in 1924. Images also show people walking, standing, and gathering outside of the building, with one image showing crowds waiting outside to see T. S. Eliot speak in Sanders Theatre. Of particular note are the images of the 1956 fire that destroyed the clock tower of Memorial Hall, which show smoke and flames, firefighters on ladders and the roof operating hoses, spectators watching the fire, and the aftermath, including debris, twisted metal scaffolding, workers inspecting the damage, and the tower burned away. The images also display horses and a trolley in front of Memorial Hall, group photographs of the Annenberg Hall waiters, including several African Americans; and the nearby Classes of 1887 and 1888 Gate.
Interior photographs show each main section of the building: the memorial transept, Annenberg Hall, the clock tower, and Sanders Theatre. Images of the memorial transept show the stained glass windows and students visiting the memorial. Annenberg Hall images show the hall set up for dining, the waiters at work, students taking an exam, and artwork, such as busts, paintings, and stained glass windows. Photographs of the clock tower show the remains after the 1956 fire that destroyed everything but the stone base of the tower. These images show twisted metal, fallen beams, debris, the cracked bell, and markings written on the building by inspectors. The Sanders Theatre images show the stage, the audience seating, a play being performed, a string quartet standing on the stage, and the statues near the stage.

Inventory update

This document last updated 2017 January 5 27.

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