Council of Independent Colleges Historic Campus Architecture Project

 

 
Morgan Hall

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Institution Name: Amherst College
Original/Historic Place Name: Library
Location on Campus:
Date(s) of Construction:
1817remodelled
1852-1853original construction Sykes, Henry A.
1935remodelled; cornice repaired
1960installation of planetarium
Designer: Henry A. Sykes, Springfield, Mass.
Type of Place: Individual building
Style: Italianate (Glossary)
Significance: architecture, culture, education, history
Narrative: see below
References: see below
Materials:
Foundation: stone blocks
Walls: gneiss from Pelham, MA
Roof: tin, as of 1882
 
Function:
1852-1916library
1917-1934administration
1917-1934academic department building (fine arts)
1917-present (2006)classrooms
1935-1965other (meeting rooms)
1935-1965faculty offices
1935-1965library (archive: College Memorabila Collection in Edward Hitchcock Memorial Room)
1960-present (2006)observatory (planetarium)
ca. 2004-present (2006)academic department building (American studies, anthropology and sociology)
 

Narrative:
This was the college's first building made of stone, its first library building, and the workplace of two nationally important librarians: Melvil Dewey and William Isaac Fletcher. An addition in 1882-1883 enlarged the library's capacity and occasioned the naming for Henry T. Morgan, New York banker.

While still a student, Melvil Dewey (class of 1874) devised his decimal library classification system and was authorized to apply it to the College Collections. The first publication of his classification system was issued while he served as Acting Librarian from 1874 to 1877.

Nationally active, he founded the Library Journal in 1876, served as Chief Librarian for Columbia University 1883-1888, and founded the Columbia School of Library Economy in 1877. He was also very active in spelling reform throughout his career.

William Isaac Fletcher (librarian 1883-1911) brought Amherst's Library into the 20th century and was important nationally as a bibliographer, educator, and professional. He was co-editor with William Poole of the Index to Periodicals (3rd edition) and the sole editor of later supplements and related indexes. His Public Libraries in America was a standard, stressing the educational and cultural mission of the library. In 1891-1892, he served as president of the American Library Association. He even pioneered a Summer Library School in Amherst from 1891 to 1905.

Part of Morgan was remodeled for classrooms, administrative, and other uses following the erection of Converse Memorial Library in 1917. The seven-floor stack section was not remodeled until 1935 when the Edward Hitchcock Memorial Room (designed by James Kellum Smith, class of 1915) became a home for college memorabilia.

The entire cornice was repaired in 1935, and a planetarium was installed in 1960, the gift of Preston Rogers Bassett (class of 1913).
 

References:

King, Stanley. The Consecrated Eminence: the Story of the Campus and Buildings of Amherst College. Amherst, MA: Amherst College, 1951.

Routh, Carroll S. Morgan Hall [Amherst College]. Inventory report. Boston: Massachusetts Historical Commission, 2000.

 

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Last update: November 2006