Council of Independent Colleges Historic Campus Architecture Project


Mary Harley Student Health and Counseling Center

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Institution Name: Sweet Briar College
Original/Historic Place Name: Mary Harley Student Health Center
Location on Campus: 146 Chapel Rd.
Date(s) of Construction:
1925original construction Cram, Ralph Adams
Designer: Ralph Adams Cram
Type of Place: Individual building
Style: Beaux-Arts classicism, Other (Glossary)
Significance: architecture, history
Narrative: see below
References: see below
Foundation: poured concrete
Walls: brick
Roof: gable, slate
1925-present (2006)infirmary (student health center)

The Mary Harley Student Health Center was built in 1925 by architects Cram & Ferguson with Clark & Crowe Associate Architects, and was the first permanent home of the infirmary. Previously, between 1906 and 1925, the infirmary was located in various campus buildings, including Sweet Briar House and Faculty Row Guest House. The new building was named after Dr. Mary Harley, who was hired at the opening of the college in 1906 to teach physiology and hygiene and to operate the infirmary.

As a member of the Sweet Briar community, Dr. Harley worked diligently to safeguard the health and well-being of the faculty, staff and students. Dr. Harley cared for President McVea and became so concerned about her health that she moved the President to the infirmary in House 1 so that she could monitor her condition (The Story of Sweet Briar College, Stohlman, p. 83).
Dr. Harley also saved two young women during the influenza epidemic. One of the young women saved was Willeta Dolle, whose father was so grateful for his daughter's recovery that he helped raise money for the construction for a new infirmary. Walter Dolle was thankful for Dr. Harley's skills that saved his daughter's life, but he was quite disappointed with the condition of the infirmary. He and Mary Harley worked together to make the new facility possible (Anne Marshall Whitley, director of the Sweet Briar Museum).

Harley remained the college physician and professor of Physiology and Hygiene from 1906 until she retired in 1935. She was so respected by the Sweet Briar community that she was the one woman consistently addressed as "doctor." For the last ten years of her service, she resided in the new infirmary which bears her name. The infirmary was a gift made possible by the generosity of several people, but Dr. Harley herself was the chief donor. When Dr. Harley retired in 1936, she was the sole remaining faculty member of the original 1906 faculty (The Story of Sweet Briar College, p. 176).

The Mary Harley Student Health Center has served as the College's infirmary since its completion in 1925.


Harnsberger, Douglas. Historic Structures Report. Sweet Briar, VA: Sweet Briar College, 1997.

Henry, Geoffrey B. Sweet Briar College Historic District. National Register of Historic Places designation report. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of the Interior/National Park Service, 1995.

Sasaki Associates Inc. Master plan. [Watertown, MA: Sasaki Associates Inc.], 1997.


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Council of Independent Colleges
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Last update: November 2006