Council of Independent Colleges Historic Campus Architecture Project


Williston Observatory

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Institution Name: Mount Holyoke College
Original/Historic Place Name: Williston Observatory
Location on Campus:
Date(s) of Construction and Designer(s):
1881original construction Young, Charles A. Bartlett Brothers
1972addition to house new telescope Unknown
Type of Place: Individual building
Style(s): (Glossary)
Foundation: none specified
Walls: none specified
Roof: none specified
1881-present (2007)observatory

Significance: architecture, culture, education, engineering, history
Landmark designation:
Narrative: see below
References: see below

Mount Holyoke College has included astronomy in its curriculum since the its inception. The college was given a telescope as early as 1853 that was housed in a small observatory until trees obstructed the view. In 1880, the College's then treasurer A. Lyman Williston, donated ten thousand dollars for an observatory in honor of his teenage son John Pacson Williston, who died the previous year. The Williston Observatory is the oldest academic building on campus and continues to be used in 2004. Its original turret revolved on 3 Civil War cannon balls. A second turret was added in 1972 to accommodate a 24" reflecting telescope. (The original telescope was sent to Mount Holyoke's sister college in South Africa, Huguenot College.) The original lens is still in the Alvan Clark telescope and is purported to be one of the last ones he manufactured.

I. Bibliographic sources:

Alaimo, Laura Ann. "Building Mount Holyoke College, 1896-1900." B. A. thesis, Mount Holyoke College Department of History, 1981.

Edmonds, Anne Carey. A Memory Book: Mount Holyoke College 1837-1987. South Hadley, MA: Mount Holyoke College, 1988.

Gaines, Thomas A. The Campus as a Work of Art. New York: Praeger, 1991.

Horowitz, Helen Lefkowitz. Alma Mater: Design and Experience in the Women's Colleges from Their Nineteenth-Century Beginnings to the 1930s. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1984.

Mount Holyoke College. The Centenary of Mount Holyoke College. South Hadley, MA: Mount Holyoke College, 1937.

Mount Holyoke College. Memorial. Twenty-fifth Anniversary of the Mount Holyoke Female Seminary. Springfield, MA: S. Bowles & Company, 1862.

"Mount Holyoke College Historic Map Website." Online (1997). Archives and Special Collections.

Nutting, Mary O. Historical Sketch of Mount Holyoke Seminary. Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, 1876.

Schwartz, Robert, et al. "Historical Atlas of the Mount Holyoke College Campus." Online (2004). Mount Holyoke College, South Hadley, MA.

Stow, Sarah D. Locke. History of Mount Holyoke Seminary, South Hadley, Mass., During its First Half Century. Springfield, MA: Springfield Printing Company, 1887.

II. Location of other data:
University: Library, Special Collections, Facilities Management Office

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