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Sub-series B: President's House (First, built 1821-1822), 1866 - 1948


Scope and Contents

This sub-series contains photographs of the first President's house while it was privately owned by local families and after the Psi Upsilon fraternity purchase. While gathering Amherst College memorabilia, Dr. Edward Hitchcock, Jr. misidentified an image of "Mrs. Moore's house" (also known as the Bentley house) as being the first President's house. Correspondence and research notes document the mid-1930s recognition and correction of the error, which Stanley King discusses in his 1951 history of the campus 'The Consecrated Eminence': The Story of the Campus and Buildings of Amherst College.


  • Creation: 1866 - 1948

Conditions Governing Access

There is no restriction on access to the collection for research use. Particularly fragile originals may be restricted for preservation purposes.

Building History

On 18 September 1821, three major events were celebrated as the Collegiate Institution in Amherst opened its doors. The college building (later known as South College) was dedicated, the Rev. Dr. Zephaniah Swift Moore and other officers and trustees were sworn in, and the cornerstone was laid for the President's house. Located about a quarter-mile (400 m) north of the college, it stood in the village of Amherst, on the west side of the town common at the corner of South Pleasant St. and Sellen's Lane (Sellen Street, today). The house was finished by the summer of 1822, and was then occupied by President Moore and his wife, Phebe (Drury) Moore. After President Moore's unexpected death in 1823, Mrs. Moore moved to a neighboring house, where she provided room and board to Amherst students.

President Rev. Dr. Heman Humphrey, his wife Sophia (Porter) Humphrey, and their children lived in the house until about 1833. Poor health among the Humphrey family, believed to be related to the house's location and dampness (the town common was frequently swampy), prompted the Trustees to sell the property and use the proceeds towards a better house on higher ground closer to the college. The property remained in private hands until 1880, when the Psi Upsilon fraternity purchased it for use as a residence. During the 1880s, the fraternity updated the original Federal style building with Victorian design, adding a third story and large porches. The first President's house was razed when Psi Upsilon built the residence known today as Seelye House (Putnam and Cox, architects) in 1911-1912. Lawn and shade trees cover the original footprint of the first President's house.


0.25 Linear feet (7 legal-size folders, 1 (12 x 15 in.) folder, 1 (17 x 22 in.) folder)

Language of Materials



  • Allen, M. Adèle. "The First President’s House – A Reminiscence." Amherst Graduates’ Quarterly. Amherst (Mass.): Alumni Council of Amherst College, February 1937.
  • King, Stanley. “The Consecrated Eminence”; the Story of the Campus and Buildings of Amherst College. Amherst, Mass. : Amherst College, 1951.

Repository Details

Part of the Amherst College Archives and Special Collections Repository

Amherst College Archives & Special Collections
Robert Frost Library
61 Quadrangle Drive
Amherst MA 01002-5000
(413) 542-2299