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!

Robbins “Lottery” House // 1800

Government-sanctioned lotteries originated in Massachusetts as an alternative to taxation, but soon expanded as a fundraising tool to help fund building projects and support charities. In 1765, the General Court passed the first legislation allowing Harvard College to run a lottery to support dormitory building projects. Before Harvard University accepted multi-million dollar donations, they drew lotteries between 1794 and 1797 to build the second Stoughton Hall and in the early 1800s, for the building of Holworthy Hall. In Harvard’s lottery of 1794-1796 which John Robbins, a farmer and Revolutionary War veteran, entered, together with three friends, each of whom purchased a quarter-share in one ticket. They won! This Federal style home with hipped roof and symmetrical facade is one of four built in Acton.

Lewis and Harriet Hayden House // 1833

Lewis Hayden was born into slavery in Lexington, Kentucky, in 1811, as one of a family of 25. Hayden was first owned by a Presbyterian minister, Rev. Adam Rankin. He sold off Lewis’ brothers and sisters in preparation for moving to Pennsylvania, and he traded 10-year-old Hayden for two carriage horses to a man who traveled the state selling clocks. In the mid-1830s, Hayden married Esther Harvey, also a slave. She and their son were sold to U.S. Senator Henry Clay, who sold them both to the Deep South, and Hayden never saw them again. By 1842, Hayden married a second time, to Harriet Bell, who was also enslaved, and he cared for her son Joseph as his stepson. After this marriage, Hayden began making plans to escape to the North, as he feared his second family might be split up like the first. In 1844, he and his family escaped with assistance of abolitionists all the way to Canada. From Canada, the Haydens moved in 1845 to Detroit in the free state of Michigan, and the next year, they moved to Boston, at the center of anti-slavery activity with the city’s strong abolitionist base. In Boston, Hayden became a lecturer and ran a clothing shop, acquiring enough money to live in this large home in Beacon Hill. The Haydens routinely cared for fugitive slaves at their home, which served as a boarding house. Guests included Ellen and William Craft, who escaped from slavery in 1848. Hayden prevented slave catchers from taking the Crafts by threatening to blow up his home with gunpowder if they tried to reclaim the pair. Hayden died in 1889, outliving the abolishment of slavery. Harriet died in 1894 and left $5,000, the entirety of their estate, to the Harvard University for scholarships for African American medical students. It was believed to have been the first, and perhaps only, endowment to a university by a former slave. Their former home remains a stop on Boston’s Black Heritage Trail.

William Strong House // 1896

William C. Strong purchased the old Wyman Farm in present day Waban Village in 1875, consisting of 93 acres of open land and rolling hills. He subdivided some of the land after the completion of the Waban Station, later developing the Strong’s Block, the premier commercial block in the village. To kick off the development along Windsor Road, he hired architect Herbert Langford Warren, the Dean of Harvard’s Architecture School (who also owned a historic farmhouse nearby) to design a couple homes for sale. This stunning house is notable for the prominent gable end gambrel roof, shingle siding, and porte-cochere.