Renovating Divinity Hall

Divinity Hall

Divinity Hall was dedicated on August 29, 1826. In the later part of the 19th century various renovations are mentioned in the HDS Dean's Reports. In 1882/83: "Summer before last the chapel was refurnished and decorated ... [This] last summer ... the entries have been made much brighter ... and ... the vestibules have been enlarged. ... the field at the north of the building has been levelled. This ... will in time furnish a very convenient place for out-of-door sports." In 1892/93: "Steam heat has been introduced ... into the hallways and the Chapel and excellent bathrooms have been added on the two lower floors ...."

Divinity Hall Chapel
Divinity Hall Chapel

In 1904, the Chapel was completely renovated. The architect was A.W. Longfellow, Jr. (1854-1934), nephew of the poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. After graduating from Harvard, he entered the new architecture program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.  After additional study in Paris in 1879-1881, he apprenticed with H. H. Richardson.  From 1886 to 1896, he was in partnership with Frank Alden and Alfred Harlow in a firm that designed in both Boston and Pittsburgh.  From 1896 to 1923, he worked on his own.  In Boston he designed the now demolished stations on the elevated railroad (1898/1902) and the elegant Eben Draper House on Beacon Street (1904); he redesigned the apse and pulpit of the Arlington Street Church (1910).  He designed Phillips Brooks House (1897-1899) and the Semitic Museum (1902) at Harvard and Agassiz House (1904) and Bertram Hall (1901) at Radcliffe. He designed Winthrop Hall (1892) at the Episcopal Theological (now Divinity) School and many houses in the Brattle Street neighborhood. He was active in the Boston Architectural Club and the Boston Society of Arts and Crafts.  Longfellow was featured in Margaret Henderson Floyd's recent book Architecture after Richardson (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1994).

HDS Dean's Report, 1903/04: Divinity Hall has been much improved during the year. The renovation of the Chapel has been completed, and it is now a dignified and beautiful place of worship. Tablets of marble or oak have been set, in the walls in memory of Professor Hedge, Professor Thayer, and the Rev. Edmund Sears, and to recall the delivery in the Chapel of Ralph Waldo Emerson's Divinity School Address. To these are soon to be added memorials of Dean Everett and Professor Henry Ware, Jr. There has also been added to the equipment of Divinity Hall a modern bathroom with four slate-lined shower baths, and the hallway floors have been in part relaid. These changes, together with the provision of the Common Room for all occupants of the Hall, tennis courts at the rear, and the advantages of the Library and Reading Room, have made Divinity Hall one of the most attractive dormitories in the University. An instructive experiment has been undertaken in reserving the right of occupancy to students approved by the Dean, with a preference given to graduate students and professional students having some sympathy with the purpose of the School, and the result is the creation of a congenial group of mature men, who find in the building a pleasant Centre of companionship. It seems not unreasonable that a similar plan, which may give to each dormitory or group of dormitories a certain stamp of interest or sympathy, might be applied to other Schools of the University with success.

HDS Dean's Report, 1898/99: During the last summer two changes were made in Divinity Hall from which good results are anticipated. Twenty rooms were supplied with simple and substantial furniture, a small addition being made to the rent of each. The furnishing of these rooms seemed especially desirable from the fact that so many of our students come only for a year. The other change referred to was the arrangement of what will be known as the "Common Room." The partition between two rooms was taken away and they were redivided so as to form a larger and a smaller room opening into one another by large doors. The smaller room will be used as a reading room, and the larger for social purposes. The rooms are furnished in an attractive manner. This arrangement was made possible by money given to the President and Fellows of Harvard College, shortly after his graduation from the school in 1872, by Rev. John William Quinby. This money was to be expended under the direction of the Faculty of the Divinity School; and it seemed to that body that no expenditure of a portion of it, together with the interest that had accumulated, could be more useful to the school and more honorable to the giver than this. An inscription will commemorate the generosity that made this extremely pleasant feature of the school possible.

HDS Dean's Report, 1901/02: The Divinity School is the only department in the University having its own dormitory. This fact has, however, not always been to the advantage of the School. Divinity students have found themselves segregated from the main movement of university life, and since Divinity Hall is an inexpensive lodging-place, rooms not occupied by Divinity students have, as a rule, been taken by College students who were willing to sacrifice comfort for economy. The building has thus for many years been in disfavor among many students of the University; and the school has borne the reputation of being the report of few who could live elsewhere. The brevity of a college tradition is illustrated by the fact that in a half-dozen years Divinity Hall has been transformed into one of the most popular dormitories, and is now occupied by a select and congenial colony. A pleasant Common-Room makes a meeting place for all occupants of the Hall, a large bath-room with four slate compartments for shower-baths, and a reserved tennis court are provided; and application for residence by students not members of the School must be approved by the Dean. Students of the Graduate School and the professional schools are preferred in these applications, which are now in excess of the capacity of the Hall. The establishment of a social center within a dormitory, and the giving of a specific character to dormitory life, is not without instructiveness for the administration of other University buildings.