A striking landmark on the campus of Amherst College is Stearns Steeple, which stands in front of the Mead Art Museum. It is the only surviving part of the College Church, built in 1873. A gift of William F. Stearns, son of College president William A. Stearns, the Gothic church was designed by William A. Potter of New York. The Steeple’s bells, cast in 1871, were given by George Howe as a memorial to Amherst men lost in the Civil War. Stearns’ gift required that the building only be used for religious purposes, but Sunday services were transferred to the College Chapel in 1933 and discontinued in 1946, with the result that the church was no longer used regularly. It was razed in 1949 to make way for new buildings, although the steeple was spared as a monument to the church. To become a freestanding structure, the steeple was enclosed using materials from the demolished church.
Kirby Memorial Theater at Amherst College was built with funds from a charitable trust set up by Dr. Ellwood R. Kirby (1854-1920). Kirby, a Philadelphia physician, is depicted administering anesthetic to the surgery patient in Thomas Eakins 1889 painting The Agnew Clinic. The Theater was built in 1938-1939 and was designed by James Kellum Smith of McKim, Mead & White, with the help of S.R. McCandless, a theater designer. The James W. Boyden House, which had served as a college boarding house and cafeteria, was moved from the site in 1937 to 58 Woodside Street to make way for the Theater.
In 1780, Colonel Elijah Dickinson of Amherst married Jerusha Smith. Jerusha’s grandfather, Dr. Nathaniel Smith, had moved from Hadley about 1730 to become the first physician to practice in Amherst. He built a log cabin, next to what would later become College Hill, and eventually replaced the cabin with a new house, painted yellow. This house was moved to South Pleasant Street to make way for a new Federal-style house, built by Col. Dickinson in 1810. Dickinson gave the land on which Amherst College would be built. The house was later owned by John White. Known as the White Homestead, it was purchased by Amherst College from the White Family in 1924. It served as the College’s Faculty Club and was later converted to become the Wilson Admission Center, named for former Dean of Admission Eugene S. Wilson.
College Hall in Amherst was built in 1828-1829 as the third meeting house of the First Congregational Church of Amherst. It was built on land donated by Amherst College in return for the right to hold commencement and other ceremonies in the church. When a new Congregational church was built on Main Street in 1867-1868, the College purchased the old church building, which was expanded and remodeled (with the addition of new columns to the front) and rededicated in 1905. Read More
The Scott House in Amherst, built in 1793, is the oldest building operated by Amherst College. Built as a tavern, it has been owned by the College since 1924. It was recently renovated, with the interior space being redesigned and modernized. An earlier rear addition to the house and old outbuildings were demolished and the vegetation, which concealed the house from the road, was also removed.
Barrett Hall, on the campus of Amherst College, was built as Barrett Gymnasium in 1859-1860. Amherst College had the first department of Physical Education in the country. Constructed of Pelham granite, the gymnasium was designed by Boston architect Charles E. Parkes and was named for Dr. Benjamin Barrett of Northampton, who made the largest financial contribution towards building and fully equipping it. The building served as a gym until Pratt Gymnasium was built in 1883. In 1907, Barrett Hall was converted to become the home of the modern languages department.
Morgan Hall, on South Pleasant Street in Amherst, was built in 1852-1853 and was Amherst College’s first library building. Designed by Henry Sykes, it was the campus’ first building made of stone. It was expanded in 1882-1883, at which time the building was officially named for New York Banker, Henry T. Morgan. Melvil Dewey served as Acting Librarian from 1874 to 1877, during which time he applied his decimal library classification system to the college’s collection. William Isaac Fletcher, Librarian from 1883 to 1911, was a nationally known bibliographer, educator and author of Public Libraries in America (1894). With the construction of the Converse Memorial Library in 1917, Morgan Hall was converted to classroom nd administrative use (it houses several college departments). In 1960, Astronomy Department’s Bassett Planetarium was installed, the gift of Preston Rogers Bassett. On the lower floor of Morgan Hall is a cannon from the 1862 Civil War Battle of New Bern, North Carolina. It is a memorial to President William A. Stearns‘ son Frazar Stearns, who was killed in the battle.