Mahan Hall is the centerpiece of the original academic group Ernest Flagg placed on the northwest side of the U.S. Naval Academy’s quadrangle, facing Bancroft Hall. Rising construction costs required Flagg to adapt his designs for the academic group to include gray brick and terra-cotta instead of granite. Named for prominent naval historian Admiral Alfred Thayer Mahan, the building housed a library and auditorium. Its formal central entrance is emphasized by a tall clock tower. The presence of the main reading room on the second floor is clearly articulated on the exterior by large arched windows, in typical Beaux-Arts fashion. The classically inspired ornament of the exterior continued in the grand public spaces of the interior, such as the vaulted trophy hall.
The two flanking classroom buildings—Maury and Sampson halls—extend from the front corners of Mahan Hall. This placement creates a forecourt that further enhances the symmetrical monumentality of the academic group. Flagg’s academic group also includes the Marine Engineering Building, later know as Isherwood Hall, placed on axis to the rear. Isherwood Hall was demolished in 1981 to make way for a new Alumni Hall.
Hnedak, John D., and Janet Davis, “Mahan Hall, Sampson Hall, Maury Hall (Academic Group),” Anne Arundel County, Maryland, HABS No. MD-329-6, c. 1980. National Park Service, U.S. Department of the Interior, Washington, D.C.