Austin Hall, Harvard Law School

Austin Hall

Harvard Law School

Henry Hobson Richardson, 1881–1883

National Register of Historic Places

Richardson’s concern with color in architecture is evident here, as it is in his earlier Trinity Church and Sever Hall. The dark Longmeadow sandstone ashlar is trimmed with pale yellow Ohio stone and decorated with bluestone marquetry inspired by the southern Romanesque decoration that Richardson had studied in the Auvergne region of France. The stone arches and columns are decorated with delightful carving, including Richardson’s monogram interwoven with tools of the architect. Originally the exterior appeared gaudy to many observers, but with the passage of time, either it has mellowed or we have become accustomed to it.

Inside, the fireplace in the James Barr Ames Courtroom (originally the library) is a National Historic Landmark in itself, an outstanding example of Richardson’s ornament with rich stone corbels supporting the mantel. The interior spatial organization is communicated on the exterior both by the massing and by the window treatment. The large central mass is flanked by lower wings. Three massive Romanesque arches with a deeply recessed porch define the entrance, while the off-center stair tower provides counterpoint in the generally balanced design. The building was constructed for the now unbelievably small sum of $145,000.