Thompson Memorial Library
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One of the most important of early campus buildings was the Frederick Ferris Thompson Memorial Library. Originally a free-standing structure built in 1905, it has grown in pieces over time. Renovations to double its space in depth took place first in 1918 and then in 1937. The latter linked the library to Taylor Hall to the south and included John McAndrew's important early modernist Art Library. There were further additions to the north, including the 1977 Lockwood addition (Helmut, Obata and Kassabaum) and its renovation, which has created the Ingram wing (Hugh Hardy, 2001).
Identifying the different parts of these renovations, some of which are indistinguishable to the untrained eye, would be a major goal of any educational material produced by the college as a result of this initiative. Such work would also help to focus attention on the ambitions of the early college and its original library--not just the central tower, which is truly monumental, or the Cornaro stained glass window, which shows the 17th-century Venetian intellectual, Elena Lucrezia Coronaro Piscopia, the first woman to receive a Ph.D.--but on the entire decorative program of the building, which links Vassar and its education to the world of wider learning.
The architectural character of this building, which mixes clear, box-like, Beaux-Arts massing with complex Gothic decorative detail, provides the dominant formal theme for the west side of the campus. Thus each of the linked additions (the Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center to the south and the Ingram wing to the north) relate to this original structure. Generations of students, under the training of the history department most notably, used the library and its epistemological frame for their own study. Thus the building not only housed books, but was, in its form, a lesson for generations of students.
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