Harvard Medical School – Countway Library // 1965

I know some of you hate Brutalist architecture, but give this one a chance, its one of my favorites! In the 1960s, the Harvard Medical School’s cramped research library on the second floor of the Administration Building (1905) was not suitable for the esteemed doctors behind those doors, and a larger, modern library was required. There was one issue… They did not have any room to build a suitable library! Architect Hugh Stubbins, who always thought outside of the box, decided the best option was to close a street and build up. Reportedly the largest university medical library in the country at the time of its completion, the Francis A. Countway Library of Medicine is named after Francis Countway, the bookkeeper for Lever Brothers, a local soap company, who later became president in 1913. He supported his sister, Gussanda “Sanda” Countway, throughout her school years. When Francis died, Sanda Countway created the Countway Charitable Foundation in his memory. The funds collected by this foundation, including Sanda’s own donation, allowed Harvard University to build the Countway Library in his name. The concrete building features a massive atrium inside with a curvilinear staircase which contrasts the bold proportions with a sleek design feature. The library is home to the Warren Anatomical Museum, one of the few surviving anatomy and pathology museum collections in the United States, which includes some medical and anatomical marvels!

Harvard Medical School – Vanderbilt Hall // 1928

When Harvard Medical School opened its doors in 1906 at its new Longwood campus in Boston, students were forced to live in private dormitories or travel long distances to the sparsely developed neighborhood near the Fens. Hospitals at the time had private dormitories for nurses and other employees, but Harvard did not fill this need until 1928 when Vanderbilt Hall opened. The building is Renaissance Revival in style, which mimics the style of the Boston Lying-In Hospital which was built in 1922 across from Vanderbilt, and the famous Gardner Museum. Vanderbilt Hall is unique in the neighborhood as a dormitory, recreation, and athletic center built to house 250 students of the Medical School. As part of its funding campaign, subscriptions from 1,519 doctors and 618 “non-medical friends” were obtained, along with a gift of $100,000 from New York Central Railroad President Harold S. Vanderbilt, for whom the building was named. The stunning building has a curved concave corner which mimics the Boston Lying-In Hospital and elegantly frames the small circular park in the street.

Harvard Medical School – Laboratory Building // 1905

The buildings which make up the majority of the “Great White Quad” of Harvard Medical School in Boston, are the four laboratory buildings which frame two sides of the lawn. The four lab buildings add to the composition of the campus which historically terminated at the Administration Building (last post). All five buildings of the Longwood campus’ initial building campaign were built between 1903-05 and were designed by the architectural firm of Shepley, Rutan, and Coolidge, who continued the architectural practice of the famed H.H. Richardson. The four lab buildings were designed U-shaped with two disciplines in each building, one on each wing, with a central auditorium space in the central wing upstairs. Large grassy courtyards were located in the enclosed sections to provide natural light and fresh air into the laboratories. Many of the Classical Revival lab buildings have been enclosed and added onto in the 20th century as the campus grew exponentially, a testament to its success.

Harvard Medical School – Administration Building // 1905

Founded in 1782, the Harvard Medical School is one of the oldest medical schools in the United States. Lectures were first held in the basement of Harvard Hall and then later in Holden Chapel. Since then, they were located at five other locations in Cambridge and Boston, before Harvard purchased land in the sparsely developed Longwood section of Boston. Planning was underway by 1900 for the design and construction of the “Great White Quadrangle”, of five interconnected Medical School buildings of marble framing three sides of a quadrangle to emulate the plan of a modern German medical school. At the end of the quad would be an administration building, with laboratory buildings housing the various departments of the medical school running down the sides. The Administration Building, designed by the Boston architectural firm of Shepley, Rutan, and Coolidge, is Neo-Classical in design with monumental Ionic columns and a high, dentilated entablature with prominent cornice molding, all in a white marble shell. For you architecture nerds, I suggest you check out this campus, its a hidden, yet stunning composition of buildings!

Dr. Buckminster Brown House // ca.1860-1890

Originally located at 59 Bowdoin Street at the southern corner of Bowdoin Court, this narrow three-story home was the dwelling of Dr. Buckminster Brown, one of the most prominent Boston doctors at the time. Buckminster Brown (1819-1891) was born into one of Boston’s most illustrious families, with his ancestors traced back to John Warren, an original settler in Salem in 1630 on the ship Arbella. His great-grandfather, Joseph Warren, one of the founders of the Harvard Medical School known as the “Surgeon of the Revolution” who took part in the Boston Tea Party, Battles of Lexington and Concord and later died in the Battle of Bunker Hill. His father, John Bull Brown was credited as bringing the speciality of orthopedics to America.

1860 image of 59 Bowdoin Street, Josiah Johnson Hawes, Photographer.

Buckminster Brown was born with Pott’s Disease, a form of tuberculosis that occurs outside the lungs where the disease is seen in the vertebrae, often causing a “hunchback” appearance. Buckminster Brown attended Harvard Medical School and later travelled around Europe learning from the orthopedic specialists there who led the field before returning back to Boston to practice. In consequence of his disease, Dr. Brown lead a shut-in life, in spite of his deformity though, he practiced for fifty years. Dr. Brown married in 1864 to Sarah Alma Newcomb and they likely had this home built for them with close proximity to the hospital. Dr. Brown often stayed in his home allowing patients to stop by for appointments and tending to his studies as he did not like to leave the safety of his home. Sadly, due to an expansion of the Massachusetts State House in 1890, his house was acquired by the Commonwealth via a taking and he moved to Newton, where he died that same year.

1883 view of Dr. Buckingham Brown’s home on Bowdoin Street at corner of Bowdoin Court.