Massachusetts Hall Passes 214th Birthday Recollecting Revolution and Cricket Balls
Hall Used for Barracks in 1776 By Revolutionists and Bums and Later for Classes
As Harvard approaches its three hundredth anniversary its oldest building, Massachusetts Hall, is passing through its two hundred and fourteenth year. Somewhat abashed by its new efficiency of running water and electric lights, Mass. Hall can still recall the tinkling of glass broken by cricket balls and perhaps by Revolutionary musket balls. Built in 1720 it came into being as a result of a grant by the Province of Massachusetts to the University of 3500 pounds.
Its original use was as a dormitory, but in 1775 it was given over to the Revolutionary Government for use as a barracks. It normally housed 64 students, but the officers managed to squeeze 640 soldiers into it. After the soldiers had left Cambridge it was found that they had been none too gentle with the building, and consequently it could not be put into use before repairs.
The windows were boarded up and it was left empty, but soon boards were noticed to be missing from the windows, and investigation showed that whole families had moved in. This trouble was no sooner cleared up, by forcible eviction, than the British asked permission to use the hall for barracks, but met with a refusal from the officers of the University. At the close of the war the building reverted to its original use as a dormitory.
In 1820 students were moved out of the first floor of the hall and this floor was turned over to lectures and classrooms. In 1870, still later, the whole building was turned over to public uses. It was here that the President of the University used to greet the Governor of the Commonwealth on Commencement Day. Here also were held the Phi Beta Kappa meetings. In 1924 the building was badly damaged by fire. After that it was completely remodeled, and now has twenty four of the Yard's most expensive suites, accommodating 38 men.