Council of Independent Colleges Historic Campus Architecture Project


East Campus (relocation and expansion)

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Institution Name: Emerson College
Original/Historic Place Name: East Campus (relocation and expansion)
Location on Campus:
Date(s) of Construction:
1983purchase of Majestic Theatre
1992purchase of Little Building
2003opening of Tufte Performance and Production Center
Type of Place: Building group
Style: Beaux-Arts classicism (Glossary)
Narrative: see below
References: see below
ca. 1903other (Little Building, office building with shopping arcade)
1983-present (2006)theater (Cutler Majestic Theater)
1994-present (2006)gymnasium (Little Building)
1994-present (2006)dining hall (Little Building)
1994-present (2006)other (Little Building radio station, WERS-FM)
ca. 1994-present (2006)residence hall (Little Building, 750 students)
1998-present (2006)library (Walker Building)
1998-present (2006)other (Walker Building, conference rooms)
1998-present (2006)classrooms (Walker Building)
2003-present (2006)theater (two in the Tufte Performance and Production Center)
2003-present (2006)classrooms (Tufte Performance and Production Center)

Rarely does any college move its entire campus. Over 70 years ago, Emerson started out by renting, then buying brownstones and modest apartment buildings in the historic Back Bay section of Boston. However, these small and inefficient structures began to impose limitations on an institution specializing in performing arts and communication. The College sought a new home, and, after abandoning plans to relocate to a suburb of Boston, it began to purchase readily available buildings in Boston's historic Midtown area at bargain prices. These buildings were not much newer or in better condition, but they were larger, more efficient, and closer together.

The College purchased the Majestic Theatre, a Historic Landmark building, in 1983. Built as an opera house in 1903, the theatre had fallen into disrepair and was scheduled for demolition. After extensive renovations, it was reopened in 1989 as a venue for student productions and Boston's non-profit performance groups. The College has renovated the Majestic in phases, the last of which was a major restoration completed by the college's centennial in May of 2003.

The College expanded its Midtown presence by purchasing 180 Tremont Street (the Ansin Building) in 1992, the Little Building at 80 Boylston Street in 1994, the former Union Warren Savings Bank Building in 1996, and the Walker Building at 120 Boylston Street in 1998. All of these acquisitions were historic buildings that the College preserved and renovated for institutional use. In recognition of these projects, the Boston Society of Architects awarded Emerson its annual "Historic Preservation Award" in 2001 for its "bold and timely realization of the potential in underutilized historic buildings to create a truly urban campus" and its "exemplary standard of care for the Emerson Majestic Theatre, the Little Building and other historic properties."

In 2001, Emerson acquired its first two building sites in Midtown, enabling the College for the first time in its history to construct two entirely new buildings to suit its needs. The Tufte Performance and Production Center, future home of the Performing Arts Department will open its doors in the fall of 2003. A student residence/campus center is planned for the Piano Row site at 144-156 Boylston Street, which will house 564 students, campus organizations, the Dean of Students and an NCAA regulation size gymnasium.

The relocation effort by the College has resulted in a new "Campus on the Common," where the integration of students into the everyday working environment has had a major stabilizing influence on the neighborhood.


Fox, Pamela J. Theatre Area Preservation Study. Report. Boston, MA: Boston Landmarks Commission, June 1979.

Institutional Master Plan. Emerson College, Boston, MA.

Jenkins, Candace. Piano Row District [Emerson College]. National Register of Historic Places designation report. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of the Interior/National Park Service, 1980.

Little Building [Emerson College]. Building information form. Boston: Boston Landmarks Commission, [n.d.].

Saxon Theatre/Majestic Theatre [Emerson College]. Building information form. Boston: Boston Landmarks Commission, [n.d.].

Walker Building addition [Emerson College]. Building information form. Boston: Boston Landmarks Commission, [n.d.].


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