Houghton Rare Book Library, Harvard University

Houghton Rare Book Library

Perry Shaw & Hepburn, 1942

Harleston Parker Medal, 1943

In 1938, the Harvard College Librarian suggested a separate building for rare books and manuscripts to help ease growing demands on Widener Library. Steuben Glass president, Corning Glass heir, and patron of the arts Arthur Houghton Jr. stepped up to fund this state-of-the-art facility for preserving one of the world's great collections in a neo-Georgian shell. Houghton had served as curator of rare books at the Library of Congress in Washington for several years, pursuing a passion he developed as a student at Harvard.

The Houghton’s elegant detailing helps it hold its own against the older, and vastly larger Widener behind it, and the newer underground Pusey Library below it, making a connection to the intimately scaled Harvard of days gone by. Completed just before the U.S. entered the war, it is the last building designed in a purely historical style to be awarded the Harleston Parker Medal. The Lamont Library next door, opened in 1949, suggests what the Houghton might have looked like if it had been designed just a few years later.