Council of Independent Colleges Historic Campus Architecture Project


Robert Frost Library

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Institution Name: Amherst College
Original/Historic Place Name: Robert Frost Library
Location on Campus:
Date(s) of Construction:
1964-1965original construction Chu, Philip O'Connor & Kilham
Designer: Philip Chu of O'Connor and Kilham (New York)
Type of Place: Individual building
Style: Modern/post-WWII, Contemporary (Glossary)
Significance: architecture, culture, education
Narrative: see below
References: see below
Foundation: concrete and Monson granite veneer
Walls: brick and concrete, limestone panels
Roof: flat "built-up" roof
1965-present (2006)library (main college library)

This third library building at Amherst re-used for its foundation the Monson Granite veneer from historic Walker Hall, the previous occupant of this central location. The building is named for the poet Robert Frost, who was a member of the faculty from 1917 to 1938 and Simpson Lecturer from 1949 to 1963. The ground-breaking ceremony on October 26, 1963, was held in conjunction with a convocation to honor President John F. Kennedy, who gave a major address and also spoke at the ceremony. The library was designed by Philip Chu of O'Connor and Kilham, a New York architectural firm also responsible for the National Library of Medicine and campus structures at Cornell, MIT, and the Yale School of Art and Architecture.

Unlike its predecessor, Converse Library, which featured a main reading room, seminar rooms housing department libraries, and stack access from only one controlled point, the Robert Frost Library is modular in structure and has truly open stacks. Until recently, commencement has been conducted each spring in front of the building from the stone entrance platform. The librarian of the College from 1938 to 1970 was Newton F. McKean, and since 1975, Willis E. Bridegam. Major renovations in 1995 included remodeling and expansion of the main-floor reference, online services, and circulation areas; creation of a second-floor Technical Service area and a state-of-the-art multimedia center; and a major remodeling of the Archives and Special Collections exhibition and work areas. A very active Friends of the Library group has provided wide-ranging support since 1968.

The library holds extensive archives of the college and its alumni. Its outstanding special collections of manuscripts and books include work by American poets Emily Dickinson, Robert Frost, Richard Wilbur, and Louise Bogan; the English poet William Wordsworth; American theater and drama material from Clyde Fitch, Augustin Daly, Eugene O'Neill; and the publications of Samuel French Inc.


"Portfolio of Building Ideas: Libraries." College Management (September 1966): 45-60.


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Last update: November 2006