Thompson Hall – University of New Hampshire // 1892

The centerpiece of the University of New Hampshire (UNH) campus in Durham, is Thompson Hall, a stunning example of Romanesque Revival architecture. Thompson Hall was the first building to be built on the new campus of the New Hampshire College of Agricultural and Mechanical Arts, which had been founded in 1866 as a land grant college and was previously located near Dartmouth in Hanover. Benjamin Thompson, a Durham farmer, died 1890, leaving an estate worth $400,000, with 253 acres (102 ha) of land, to the state for use as an agricultural school. The state accepted his gift, and construction of Thompson Hall began in 1891, with a landscape plan for the campus developed by the great Charles Eliot. The bold Romanesque building was designed by Concord, NH architects Dow & Randlett, who were among the most prestigious architectural firms in the state at the end of the 19th century. The building remains as a significant piece of UNH’s ever-growing campus.

Wellesley College- Tower Court // 1915

Tower Court, a U-shaped dormitory at Wellesley College, was built in 1915 on College Hall Hill, at the former location of College Hall which burned down a year prior. At the time, an anonymous donor required that any design for a dormitory complex here had to be planned before the first building could be constructed and the buildings were to be built of fire-proof construction. She also preferred the Gothic Style of architecture and requested it be designed in the style. Once these condition s were met, Ellen Stebbins James of New York, who had no connection to the college, donated $500,000 for the construction of Tower Court. Architects Coolidge and Carlson were also requested by the donor and selected by the College.

ca. 1916 photo of completed Tower Court dormitory. Courtesy of Wellesley College digital archives.
1973 aerial of Tower Court, courtesy of Wellesley College digital collections.

Following the fire in 1914 and the advice of a Faculty Committee, a
supervising architect had been appointed to review all plans of future
buildings. Frank Miles Day of Day and Klauder was the supervising
architect for one year, until 1916. At that time his firm became the
executive architects for the Academic Buildings on Norumbega Hill and
Ralph Adams Cram, a titan in Gothic Revival architecture became supervising architect, reviewing the plans for dormitories on College Hall Hill.

The contractor, J . W. Bishop and Company, was instructed to use
remnant building materials of College Hall whenever possible. Many of the
red bricks were reused as were granite stepping stones and foundation
stones, including the cornerstone. The convergence of the old and new was important to the symbolism of the planners.

The Great Hall in Tower Court ca. 1920. Courtesy of Wellesley College Digital Collections.

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

Wellesley College- Houghton Memorial Chapel

Historically, most colleges in New England and around the country featured a chapel for students, as many were religious and far from home.

The original chapel of Wellesley College was housed in College Hall from 1875. In 1887 a fund was established by the students to build a separate chapel that would hold the entire student body, which was rapidly growing from the 350 students in Wellesley College’s first graduating Class of 1879 to nearly 700 students in 1890.

At this same time, William S. Houghton, a businessman in Boston and a trustee to Wellesley College took notice and updated his will to provide funds to the students desire for a chapel. Just before his death, uncertain events occurred which caused him to alter his will, having most money go to his family. After his death, with his children understanding his desire to help Wellesley College, gave a $100,000 gift was for a chapel to be built on the College grounds, in memory of their father. The chapel was to be used only for religious and academic purposes for the succeeding twenty years. The Board of Trustee s appointed a Chapel Committee immediately to choose a site and run a competition for the design of the Chapel .

The architectural firm of Heins & LaFarge, of New York were later selected to design the new student chapel, in the Gothic Revival style to blend with existing 1890s structures on Norumbega Hill in the center of campus. Heins & LaFarge were Philadelphia-born architects, who located their office in New York, and are most notable for their collaboration with Ralph Adams Cram on the Cathedral of Saint John the Divine in Manhattan.

The chapel was dedicated in 1899 and is constructed of Amherst stone in the Greek cross plan. The structure is constructed upon a granite foundation, which is a harder stone that holds up to weathering at the water table.

Interior shot from Wellesley College website

The interior is notable for its open spaces with stained glass windows designed by John LaFarge and Louis Comfort Tiffany. There is also a bass relief inside designed by Daniel Chester French in memory of Alice Freeman Palmer, the first president of Wellesley College.

Interior shot from Wellesley College website
Ceiling detail