Wellesley College Library // 1909, 1958 & 1975

The Margaret Clapp Library at Wellesley College exemplifies the evolving architectural tastes and demands for institutional growth.

Original library building, photo taken 2020.

The original library building is a small t-shaped structure constructed of Indiana limestone with symmetrical front facade. The Renaissance Revival building designed by the architectural firm of Shepley, Rutan and Coolidge was completed in 1909. The library displays a broad facade with a slightly projecting central bay with central entry, engaged columns and pilasters,
horizontal bands of Greek ornamentation and large casement windows. The style was very common for colleges after the turn of the century and was popular at institutions all over the region.

1910 photo taken by Detroit Publishing Company.
Reading room in original library building, 1930. Courtesy of Wellesley College archives

By the completion of the library, it was already too small. The college immediately added onto the rear of the library. After WWII, the college grew much larger and the library was becoming too tight for the growing collections and students on campus. The firm of Shepley, Bulfinch, Richardson & Abbott, who commanded many collegiate commissions at the time, were hired to nearly double the square footage of the building.

1958 addition which extends to roughly the tall hedge (later addition continues on).
Photo taken 2020

The 1958 addition is constructed of concrete pre-cast panels and glass which blends in with the Indiana limestone of the original building, yet is clearly modern. In 1974 while the last addition was underway, the Board of Trustees at Wellesley College voted to name the Library after the eighth President, Margaret Clapp who had recently died. Thus it was dedicated with the 1975 addition, also designed by Shepley, Bulfinch, Richardson, & Abbott as the Margaret Clapp Library. The 1972 additions are located on the end of the west and east wings, the western being the most dramatic for its location above a circular reflecting pool and concrete brise soleils.

1975 addition, photo taken 2020
1975 addition detail, photo taken 2020
Architectural model ca. 1970 showing complete library design. Photo courtesy of Wellesley Digital Archives.

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