Wellesley College- Music Hall // 1881

Front facade, photo taken 2020.

One of the most stunning buildings on Wellesley College’s campus is Music Hall, built in 1881. The hall is surrounded by the Clapp Library to the west, the Houghton Memorial Chapel to the north, and Tupelo Point to the south.

ca.1881 photo from Wellesley College Digital Collections

Designed by the renowned architectural firm of Ware & Van Brunt, the building was financed by Henry Fowle Durant, the college’s founder. Mr. Durant gave the architects minimal design guidelines; the most notable were that Music Hall should be built on solid ground and that it should be close to College Hall and Stone Hall, but far enough away so the noise from recitation rooms would not interfere with academic and administrative activities in the other buildings.

Photo taken 2020.

The red brick building sits atop a granite foundation and features decorative terra-cotta trim. Two stunning turrets extend the height of the building and are capped with conical roofs. In the central bay between the turrets, the main entrance sits recessed behind an arched opening. I would consider this building as “Chateauesque” in style for its proportions, recessed and protruding planes, and massive conical towers which dominate the facade.

Detroit Publishing Company photograph ca. 1905

By the turn of the 20th century, the College desired an auditorium that was larger than the one presently in College Hall, yet smaller than the 900-person space in the new chapel across the street. Caroline Hazard, the president of Wellesley College at the time hired Providence-based architects Angell and Swift, who had recently completed “Oakwoods”, her residence at the college. The Gothic Revival addition, known as Billings Hall, features similar materials and design features, yet the massing and style clearly distinguish it as a later addition.

Billings Hall. Photo taken 2020

2 thoughts on “Wellesley College- Music Hall // 1881

  1. Richard Heath January 8, 2020 / 10:09 pm

    Excellent description and history.Thank you >


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