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Sub-series J: Williston Hall (built 1857 March-1858), 1857 - 2002


Scope and Contents

Sub-series J: Williston Hall primarily contains images of the building, both interior and exterior. The Mather Art Collection of classical sculpture (plaster cast replicas) is well-documented in photographs and stereocards. Classrooms (chemistry, Greek and Latin, mathematics) are also represented. The documents pertain to the building's funding, as well as to maintenance and planned renovations.


  • Creation: 1857 - 2002

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

Just two weeks after the fire that destroyed North College (1828-1857), Amherst College Trustees met and accepted Trustee Samuel Williston’s offer of a new building on the same site. Williston proposed a building with fire-proof chemical laboratories, meeting rooms for the literary societies, and a hall for alumni meetings.

In 1874, Professor Richard H. Mather (AC 1857) installed a collection of plaster replicas of Greek and Roman sculpture on the third floor. Mather, the professor of Greek, purchased the statuary in Europe, and saw the College’s first art collection as an educational tool comparable to the existing natural history collections in the Octagon and Appleton Cabinet. The Greek and Latin classrooms on the second floor were similarly filled with art and photographs of Greece and Rome. The cast collection was dispersed by 1935, when the third floor space was transformed into the “Freshman Reading Room,” to provide study space and relieve overcrowding in Converse Memorial Library. The Christian Association, a student organization affiliated with the national YMCA, had rooms on the first floor of the building; student members provided campus tours and information.

After World War 2, Williston Hall was remodeled to expand available classroom and office space, and the stair tower on its north side was removed (the original spire had been replaced in 1877, as it was structurally faulty; the second pyramidal spire was removed in 1925). The location of the tower is still visible today as lighter brick coloring on the north wall of the building. In 2002, Williston Hall was gutted and rebuilt as a dormitory.


1.5 Linear feet

Language of Materials


Related Materials


  1. Mead Art Museum Records, MA.00078. The first guestbook (1874-1879) for the Mather Art Gallery in located in Series 3: Art Gallery Guestbooks.


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