Memorial Hall

Memorial Hall

Ware and Van Brunt, 1870–1874

Bruner/Cott with Venturi Scott Brown, addition and basement commons, 1995

Childs, Bertman, Tseckares, clock tower restoration, 2001

National Historic Landmark

Exuberant “Mem Hall” is a sentimental favorite and a wonderful Victorian medieval pile in the colorful Ruskin Gothic style. Henry James thought the architecture hysterical. Two Harvard graduates won the architectural competition to design a memorial to the students and graduates who had served on the Union side in the Civil War. William Robert Ware, class of 1852, and Henry Van Brunt, class of 1854, had been students of Richard Morris Hunt in New York and set up a practice in Boston in 1863. Their solution was a building on an entirely different scale from the established seventeenth and eighteenth-century campus.

In plan it is a Gothic cathedral with the transept serving as entrance. The apse is Sanders Theater and the nave is Annenberg Hall, Harvard's dining hall for first year students who live in nearby Harvard Yard. Sanders Theater is said to be modeled on London’s Fortune Theater. The interiors feature fine trusses, woodwork, and decorated walls. The hall has not only housed large lecture classes, registration, and ceremonial functions, but has been the location of many important lectures and concerts since its dedication.

The clock tower, destroyed in a 1956 fire, was rebuilt nearly half a century later, returning its original crown but not the clock.