Council of Independent Colleges Historic Campus Architecture Project


Jonas Clark Hall

Click on image titles for larger views.
Institution Name: Clark University
Original/Historic Place Name: Main Building; Central Building
Location on Campus:
Date(s) of Construction and Designer(s):
1888-1889original construction Earle, Stephen Clark, Jonas
1924clock tower rebuilt after collapse Unknown
Type of Place: Individual building
Style(s): (Glossary)
Foundation: granite
Walls: brick
Roof: tar paper
ca. 1889auditorium
ca. 1889other (laboratories)
1889-present (2007)other (offices)
1889-present (2007)classrooms

Significance: culture, education, history
Landmark designation:
National RegisterClark University (1980)
Narrative: see below
References: see below

Jonas Clark Hall, built in 1887, is a four-story, symmetrical brick Beaux-arts structure with a clock tower and central pavilion. The upper part of the clock tower collapsed in 1924 but was rebuilt in accordance with the original style soon afterward, although at a slightly lower height. The building's design was credited to Stephen Earle of Worcester, but sources indicate that Earle merely advised Jonas Clark in the planning.

Clark Hall is very significant in the history of higher education because it was the first building for Clark University, the first institution in the United States devoted entirely to Ph.D. level education and research (and only the second institution in the U.S. with Ph.D. programs). It was here that the first American Ph.D. in anthropology was earned under the instruction of the famous anthropologist Franz Boas. Furthermore, A.A. Michelson used a lab in the basement for work on the interferometer that he invented to measure the length of light waves. Michelson subsequently went to Paris in 1892 to use light waves to measure the length of the standard meter. As a result of his findings, the meter could be easily replicated by others with an interferometer, since the meter's length was now known in terms of a constant measure, the number of light waves in its length. This finding was so important that it was the major factor in Michelson being the first American scientist to be awarded the Nobel Prize. Five decades later, moreover, Gregory Pincus and Hudson Hoagland used this same lab in their experiments in the role of steroids in the neural and hormonal system, which led to using hormones to suppress ovulation and eventually to the development of the first practicable birth control pill. In addition, a number of well-known individuals have lectured or given addresses here, including President Theodore Roosevelt and Nobel Prize winner Santiago Ramon y Cahal. Jonas Clark Hall was also the site where Sigmund Freud received the only honorary degree he was ever presented.

I. Bibliographic sources:

Bush-Brown, Albert. "Image of a University: A Study of Architecture as an Expression of Education at Colleges and Universities in the United States between 1800 and 1900." Ph. D. dissertation, Princeton University, 1958.

Clark University. National Register of Historic Places designation report. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of the Interior/National Park Service, 1980.

Koelsch, William A. Clark University, 1887-1987: A Narrative History. Worcester, MA: Clark University Press, 1987.

Ryan, Will Carson. Studies in Early Graduate Education: The Johns Hopkins University, Clark University, the University of Chicago. New York: The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, 1939.

Turner, Paul Venable. Campus: An American Planning Tradition. New York: Architectural History Foundation; Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1984.

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

Contact us / About Site / About CIC
© 2006
Council of Independent Colleges
One Dupont Circle, Ste. 320
Washington, DC
All rights reserved
Last update: November 2006