University Hall

University Hall

Charles Bulfinch, 1813–1814

Altered: 1842; Bruner/Cott, 2001

National Historic Landmark

This building is a straightforward hip-roofed mass of Chelmsford granite ashlar with a rusticated basement. The two entrances are defined by a favorite Bulfinch device of paired two-story Ionic pilasters, joined by a central entablature topped by a balustrade. The building's fully realized rear facade is significant in that it anticipates the expansion of the Yard to the east.

The first floor was organized into four dining halls, one for each class, separated to minimize friction between classes. However, the walls separating the rooms contained large round openings high on the walls that invited food tossing and more. Kitchens were in the basement, and the second floor had a chapel in the center and recitation rooms in the wings. The third floor held more recitation rooms and the galleries for the chapel. The chapel is expressed on the exterior by the tall arched windows. The interiors have been altered for administrative uses.

Bulfinch prepared three alternative designs for University Hall, of which the two rejected designs were the most monumental, having pediments, columns, and domes. One of those is thought to have been inspiration for the first building at Mass General Hospital, Bulfinch Pavillion, which was in turn replicated later at Harvard as the massive granite Littauer Center. It is easy to imagine a columned portico at the center of the University Hall facade in the place of the statue of John Harvard - the statue was moved here later to create a point of focus that was lacking.

Source: "Harvard University Campus Guide," Shand-Tucci, 2001.