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Glatfelter Hall was completed in 1889 at a cost of $92,000. Designed by John A. Dempwolf (1848-1926), a prominent regional architect of York, PA, it was known for over twenty years as the New Recitation Building. It received its current name in 1912 to honor the memory of Philip H. Glatfelter of Spring Grove, PA, a trustee and generous benefactor of the college. A thorough renovation of the interior in 1929 provided some additional windows in the north and west facades. Between 1989 and 1991 further renovations added a tower for an elevator and stairwell on the south facade and opened the building's large attic for academic use.
Built in the Romanesque Revival style, the building's various renovations have left its exterior largely unchanged. Constructed of red brick on a stone foundation, Glatfelter Hall is richly trimmed in Hummelstown brownstone and has a slate roof. When new, the building housed virtually all the college's classrooms and offices, the college library, elegant quarters for two student literary societies, and a natural history museum. Five academic departments now occupy the building. A tall structure with a soaring tower 143 feet high, Glatfelter Hall continues to be one of the dominant features on the Gettysburg campus.
The Romanesque Revival style, popular in the U.S. from the 1870s to about 1900, drew upon the forms of the Romanesque, a style that dominated European architecture in the early medieval period. H.H. Richardson (1838-1886), a Boston architect and the most influential designer in this style, produced buildings marked by massive towers, turrets, and great rounded arches, normally executed in rough-cut stone. In its massing and in much of the decorative detail that emphasizes rich color contrasts, Glatfelter Hall reflects well the influence of Richardson's work.