Council of Independent Colleges Historic Campus Architecture Project


Musselman Library

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Institution Name: Gettysburg College
Original/Historic Place Name: Musselman Library
Location on Campus:
Date(s) of Construction and Designer(s):
1981original construction Jacobsen, Hugh Newell
Type of Place: Individual building
Style(s): (Glossary)
Foundation: none specified
Walls: burgundy brick; tinted concrete (broad horizontal bands at foundation, between floors, and cornice)
Roof: asphalt shingle
1981-present (2007)library

Significance: history
Landmark designation:
Narrative: see below
References: see below

Designed by Hugh Newell Jacobsen (b. 1929) of Washington D.C., Musselman Library was completed in 1981 at a cost of more than $4,500,000. It consists of five stories, the fifth of which, as well as the mechanical equipment to operate the building, are hidden within the large hipped roof. It can house over 42,000 bound volumes and microforms, together with a variety of new technologies introduced since the building's completion. Accomodations for individual and group study are scattered throughout the building. Its name honors the Musselman Foundation, which provided the major gift for its construction.

Musselman Library is a distinctive piece of contemporary architecture, which Jacobsen termed abstract Romanesque. Though designed to stand near the Romanesque revival Glatfelter Hall as a companion piece, it was built at a site where its relationship to the older building is less apparent. Indeed, to accomodate the change in the site, the building had to become a mirror image of its original design. In massing and color it resembles Glatfelter Hall, though it is clearly a structure of the late 20th century with its massive sculptural shapes planted firmly on the ground.

The horizontal emphasis in the overall design is broken by the pronouned verticality of a cylindrical stair tower at the SW corner. Other distinctive forms include an apse on the east facade; tall, glass bays on the south; and long, narrow windows that appear as slits in the walls and roof of the north facade and similarly in the apse.

Musselman Library conveys to the beholder a quiet dignity and elegance. If a building may be termed witty, this one achieves it through the arrangement of its sculptural forms. The interior allows a free flow of space that gives it a light and airy quality. However, unlike the buildings that stand near it, Musselman Library adds a sense of grandeur to the campus without overwhelming its neighbors.

I. Bibliographic sources:

Dean, Andrea Oppenheimer. "Sculptural Shapes that Sit Solidly on the Ground: Hugh Newell Jacobsen's Gettysburg, Pa., College Library." AIA Journal 71, no. 5 (mid-May 1982): 176-83.

Glatfelter, Charles H. A Saluatry Influence: Gettysburg College, 1832-1985. Gettysburg, PA, Gettysburg College, 1987.

Selected papers regarding College Library (RG-018). Archives, Gettysburg College, Gettysburg, PA.

II. Location of other data:
University: Special Collections

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