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Stonehill College was established on the former estate of Frederick Lothrop Ames in 1948, which had been purchased by the Holy Cross Fathers from Ames' widow in 1935. The mansion house, known today as Donahue Hall, served as a seminary from 1935-1948 and then as the first academic and administration building of the college. Today it is not only an administration building, but one of the central symbols of the college.
In 1905, Frederick Lothrop Ames hired architects Parker, Thomas and Rice of Boston, to design an elaborate country house in the Georgian Revival style. The 2 ½ story, 55-room mansion was described as "boldly conceived" and featured a classical façade framed by two gabled wings and a connecting colonnade of 6 Corinthian columns. The house's interior was arranged around a huge Living Hall (today known as the Herlihy Lounge) from which the estate's extensive grounds could be viewed. To one side of the Hall were a drawing room and library (now a chapel and conference room), and to the other side, a dining room and service wing. The upstairs was occupied entirely by guest rooms, master bedroom, nursery, and servants' sleeping quarters. Although today those rooms are offices, the college has made an effort not to change the layout of the house and to keep its architectural integrity.
The house was considered by critics to be one of the firm's most successful country house commissions. The firm drew from varied sources for inspiration, gradually coming to be identified with an English Renaissance or Georgian American style. Other important houses executed for clients in Massachusetts include the Frederick Ayer Estate, Prides Crossing, and the Leitner Estate in Beverly Farms, which bears a strong similarity in its arrangement to the Ames Estate. Some prominent Boston buildings attributed to the firm include the Tennis and Racquet Club, the Columbian National Life Insurance Building, and the Commonwealth Trust Company Building.
Note: The original name of the house was Stone House Hill House and Ames took this for historic reasons (see information on King Philip's Caves in this survey.) The Holy Cross Fathers derived the name Stonehill College from Ames's name for his estate.