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Austin Hall

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1881–1883, Henry Hobson Richardson. 1515 Massachusetts Ave.
  • Austin Hall (Peter Vanderwarker or Antonina Smith)
  • Austin Hall (Keith Morgan)
  • (Damie Stillman)
  • (Damie Stillman)
  • (Damie Stillman)
  • (Damie Stillman)
  • (Damie Stillman)
  • (Damie Stillman)
  • (Damie Stillman)
  • (Damie Stillman)

Richardson's second Harvard building, Austin Hall is a far more independent expression than Sever Hall (HY13), which Richardson sought to associate with other buildings in the Yard. In contrast, Austin Hall arose on the relatively undeveloped north campus. Austin Hall's donor, Edward Austin, directly controlled the project, hiring Richardson to develop a design that he then offered to Harvard and requiring that nothing be built within sixty feet of his building. In an episode that recalled the demolition of the John Hancock House in Boston in 1863, Austin gave Harvard an additional gift to demolish another Revolutionary landmark, the Hastings-Holmes House of 1737. This was the first headquarters of the United States Army after the events of April 19, 1775, and the birthplace of Oliver Wendell Holmes Sr. Austin Hall was erected to house the Law School, which President Charles W. Eliot had sought to strengthen under Dean Christopher Langdell, who introduced the case-study method to the curriculum. Richardson designed identical single-story wings flanking the central three-story section that contained the law library stacks and administrative offices, the whole a polychromatic composition of granite with brownstone trim. Three finely detailed Romanesque arches and a stair tower with conical top enliven the facade. Patterned masonry and extensive sculpture by John Evans contribute to a rich design, although modern critics have generally favored the more subtle coherence of Sever Hall.

Writing Credits

Maureen Meister


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Maureen Meister, "Austin Hall", [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, 324-325.

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