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A Collegiate Gothic Moment

During the early 1900s the ambitious spirit of the College’s building program, led by the presidency of Mary Emma Woolley, was carried out with far-reaching, and occasionally complicated expectations in the guise of a new architectural style, called “Collegiate Gothic”



Abbey Chapel (1937) and Williston Memorial Library (1935). Courtesy of MHC Archives.


The History of Gothic Architecture dates back to medieval times and was specifically used for religious houses of worship, specifically cathedrals. The earlier definition of Collegiate Gothic architecture, which is a symbol of strength and knowledge, was synonymous with the late medieval styles found at prestigious Oxford and Cambridge universities in England.

The early years of the 20th century were A Time of Transition when many American colleges and universities drew their inspirations from the Gothic style architecture and adapted it to their campus design, hoping to project an image of age, learning and respectability (1).

There were two schools of thought regarding the expansion plan for Mount Holyoke College. First, was the imagined or proposed architectural plan and second, the realist conclusion that was actually implemented on campus.

The Envisioned Building Plan
The plan that Arthur Schurtleff and Ralph Adams Cram devised for Mount Holyoke is intriguing in the way it took existing buildings, already in Collegiate Gothic style, and redressed them in grander, more monumental form (2).

The Implemented Building Plan
Charles Collens was the architect who successfully designed the expansion of Williston Memorial Library and the new Abbey Chapel after careful consideration of the cultural and academic aspects of the College.

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Atlas Home Page

Home Page

The History of Gothic Architecture:
Cambridge and Princeton
About Ralph Cram

A Time of Transition:
Bryn Mawr
Mary E. Woolley
Frederick Olmsted Jr.

The Envisioned Plan:
Program for Campus Development
Designs for the Library and Chapel
Shurtleff and Cram Present Their Ideas

The Implemented Plan:
Meetings and Discussions
Collens' Library Designs(Exterior)
Collens' Library Designs (Interior)
Bertha Blakely's Influence
Abbey Memorial Chapel
Charles Collens Dedication Speech and closing comments

Trivial Pursuit Question









This page was created by Ellie Perrier '07 FP in History 283, Spring 2006