You are here

Widener Library

-A A +A
1913–1915, Horace Trumbauer. Tercentenary Quad.
  • Widener Library (Peter Vanderwarker or Antonina Smith)

Designed by Philadelphia architect Horace Trumbauer, Widener Library presides over Tercentenary Quadrangle. It stands on the site of Richard Bond's Gore Hall, a granite Gothic Revival library constructed in 1838–1841, which had been remodeled and expanded several times before it was demolished in 1913. The mother of Harry Elkins Widener, who had died on Titanic, gave the new library and stipulated that Trumbauer be retained. His colonnaded elevation for this massive brick structure set on a high basement, inspired by the Roman theater at Arles, provided an imperial backdrop to this space that was emerging as the heart of Harvard Yard. When the library design became known, leading figures within the Harvard and Boston architectural communities were appalled, believing that a more restrained Georgian elevation would have been preferable. In 1915 the Boston-based Architectural Review likened Widener to a “parvenu” among better “born and bred” associates. Murals by John Singer Sargent, a World War I memorial, decorate the main staircase landing.

Writing Credits

Maureen Meister


What's Nearby


Maureen Meister, "Widener Library", [Cambridge, Massachusetts], SAH Archipedia, eds. Gabrielle Esperdy and Karen Kingsley, Charlottesville: UVaP, 2012—,

Print Source

Cover: Buildings of Massachusetts

Buildings of Massachusetts: Metropolitan Boston, Keith N. Morgan, with Richard M. Candee, Naomi Miller, Roger G. Reed, and contributors. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2009, 319-319.

If SAH Archipedia has been useful to you, please consider supporting it.

SAH Archipedia tells the story of the United States through its buildings, landscapes, and cities. This freely available resource empowers the public with authoritative knowledge that deepens their understanding and appreciation of the built environment. But the Society of Architectural Historians, which created SAH Archipedia with University of Virginia Press, needs your support to maintain the high-caliber research, writing, photography, cartography, editing, design, and programming that make SAH Archipedia a trusted online resource available to all who value the history of place, heritage tourism, and learning.

, ,