Fay House, Radcliffe (1806)

Radcliffe College in Cambridge was founded in 1879 to educate women, who were then not yet allowed at Harvard. The college bought its first building in 1885: Fay House, an 1806 Federal-style mansion. Built by Nathaniel Ireland, who made iron work for ships, the house was later owned by Joseph McKean, professor of rhetoric and oratory at Harvard. After McKean’s death in 1818, the house had several tenants, including Edward Everett in 1820-1821. The house was also home for a time to Francis Dana, Jr. His daughter, Sophia Willard Dana Ripley, kept a girls’ boarding school in the house and among her students was the first wife of Thomas Wentworth Higginson. For fifty years after 1835, the house was occupied by the family of Judge Samuel Phillips Prescott Fay.

After its acquisition by Radcliffe, Alice Longfellow, one of the College’s founders, donated funds for the remodeling of Fay House in the Colonial Revival mode, work completed in 1890 under the direction of her cousin, the architect Alexander W. Longfellow, Jr. He also oversaw the further expansion of the structure in 1892, with the addition of a third story, skylit library, porches, and more classroom and laboratory space. As additional buildings were constructed in the development of Radcliffe Yard, Fay House continued as an administration building for the College and now for its successor, the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study. The building has recently been renovated (pdf).

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