Council of Independent Colleges Historic Campus Architecture Project


Griffin Hall

Click on image titles for larger views.
Institution Name: Williams College
Original/Historic Place Name: the Brick Chapel
Location on Campus: 844 Main St.
Date(s) of Construction:
1828original construction Griffin, Edward Dorr
1904relocation Harding & Seaver
1995-1997renovation Childs Bertman Tseckares
Designer: Edward Dorr Griffin (?) (original); 1904 move--Harding and Seaver; 1995-1997 Childs Bertman Tseckares
Type of Place: Individual building
Style: Federal (Glossary)
Significance: architecture, education, history
Narrative: see below
References: see below
Foundation: stone with brick piers
Walls: brick
Roof: slate
ca. 1828chapel
1828-present (2006)classrooms

In 1821, Williams College's president, Zephaniah Swift Moore (1770-1823), resigned his position and departed for Amherst, Massachusetts. He did not think that a college could survive in this remote part of the state. Some of the college's faculty and students left with him, and the exodus clearly jeopardized the future of the institution. Edward Dorr Griffin (1770-1837), the college's next president, saw as his mission the revival of Williams, and he set about raising funds for the construction of a chapel and classroom building. Built with those funds, Griffin Hall, then, is deeply embedded in the history of the college and stands for the resurgence of an institution that could have floundered during this difficult time.

There have been several major renovations of this building. In 1904, the building was moved slightly northeast of its original location, and architects Harding and Seaver altered the façade from two doors to one. A renovation in 1995-1997 by Childs Bertman Tseckares updated the classrooms and returned the chapel/meeting room more closely to its original design. Whitney Stoddard, in his Reflections on the Architecture of Williams College writes: "The building is a combination of [Asher] Benjamin and Bulfinch ideas, yet different from either. Our most famous early-19th century building is, in my opinion, clearly the result of the extraordinary thinking and endeavors of [Edward Dorr] Griffin."


Dean, Eldon L. "Early College and Educational Buildings in New England." Pencil Points 15 (December 1934): 597-612.

Jackson, Richard D., and John R. Kleberg et al. The Best-Laid Plans: Components of Quality Campus Environments. [Columbus, Ohio]: Ohio State University, 1987.

Lewis, R. Cragin, ed. Williams 1793-1993: A Pictorial History. Williamstown, MA: Williams College Bicentennial Commission, 1993.

Rudolph, Frederick. Mark Hopkins and the Log: Williams College, 1836-1872. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1956.

Rudolph, Frederick. Mark Hopkins and the og: Williams College, 1836-1872. Reprint, with an appendix by the author, "Williams College 1793-1993: Three Eras, Three Cultures," Williamstown, MA: Williams College, 1996.

Spring, Leverett Wilson. History of Williams College. Boston, New York: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1917.

Stoddard, Whitney. Reflections on the Architecture of Williams College. Williamstown, MA: Williams College, 2001: 28.

Turner, Paul Venable. Campus: An American Planning Tradition. New York: Architectural History Foundation; Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1984.


Contact us / About Site / About CIC
© 2006
Council of Independent Colleges
Washington, DC
All rights reserved
Last update: November 2006