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The Harvard Law School, since its foundation in 1817 by Isaac Parker, then chief justice of the Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts, has continued to increase in the number of students and professors until today it is one of the chief departments of the university and second to no law school in the country in point of excellence in instruction and method. To Nathan Dane, an early resident of Massachusetts. is due the credit of aiding in the erection of the first building for the study of law at Harvard. In October, 1831, he advanced the sum of five thousand dollars toward the erection of a "Law College," and offered a loan of two thousand dollars more in order to enable the corporation to proceed immediately to the erection of a building. The Dane Law College was completed in October, 1832, and was then considered a model institution of its kind, providing as it did ample accommodations for the number of students then attending it. For several years, and more especially since the new system of instruction has been carried into effect, the need of the school for a new building has been most apparent. The shelves of the library have been overcrowded with books, the lecture rooms are small and close, while the reading room cannot begin to accommodate the number desiring to use it. The corporation in vain asked for funds, and urged the necessity of a new building, paid in January, 1881, the corporation of Harvard College accepted the gift of $100,000 to build a new law school. Mr. Richardson, the architect, has been at work upon the plans since that time. A great deal of difficulty was experienced before the final plans were approved and accepted, owing to the peculiar needs of the school, and desire of the donor to make it the most complete and elegant structure of its kind in the country. The site chosen is to the north-west of the new gymnasium, on Holmes place, and adjoining the Holmes mansion. The exterior dimensions of the building are 216 by 97 feet, the front steps being within 50 feet of the driveway. Looking at the structure from the front, the first noticeable thing which strikes the eye is the harmony of colors displayed in the use of the stone, the main part being constructed of brown sandstone from E. Longmeadow, Mass., the cornices and lintels of Ohio stone, while the basement is of red Westerly granite. The architecture is what might be called a free treatment of the Romanesque, with the decoration mostly concentrated about the porch, which is very large and effective, giving the impression of a memorial building, as was the wish of the donor, in the memory of whose brother it is to be built. The arrangement of the different shades of stone is in masses, with the exception of a little mosaic work immediately over the arches, similar to that on Trinity Church, Boston.
In the upper central part of the front of the building are three tiers of windows which light the book room, giving the appearance to the outside of one large mullioned window with horizontal bars stopped at each end by carved bosses. The roof is to be covered with blue or black slate with copper ridge and hip mouldings. Immediately to the right of the wide flight of stone steps which leads to the central porch is a small staircase turret running to the top of the building and containing the stairs for the professors' use.
Ascending the steps the student first enters a large open porch 9 by 40 feet, covered by three high arches, the central one supported at each end by eight isolated columns of polished granite, while at the extreme ends of the side arches are four similar columns. From the extreme right of the porch runs the spiral staircase in the turret by which professors may either descend into the private lavatories in the basement or ascend into the large room provided for their special use up stairs. Continuing straight through the porch into a large vestibule 14 by 18 one can turn either to the right or to the left, both doors leading to a students coat room 12 by 14, with accommodations for three hundred students. From the easterly coat room a stairway leads to a students' lavatory in the basement. From this room also the students' general room is entered, a nicely finished ball, 20 by 33, with a large bay window 19 feet wide and a carved fireplace. Around the walls of this room are a large number of lockers, each one 6 feet high by 18 inches, and having separate lock and key. This will give the room the appearance of having its walls of rich oak panelling. Here the students will be allowed to smoke, read, or otherwise pass the time between recitations.
At the extreme easterly end of the ground-floor is a large lecture room 42 by 48, corresponding to one of the same dimensions in the westerly wing of the building. Coming back to the vestibule and going through the door at the northerly side, toward the rear of the building, the large hall is entered running nearly east and west, leading from one wing to the other, and furnishing communication between the large lecture rooms. This hall is lighted by a circular bay window at either end, and the effect of the hall is very much added to by a circular column of polished granite which sustains the centre of the bay. These bay windows also give light to the large lecture room on the northerly side of the building. This lecture room will be similar to that now known to students as Sever 11. The size is 50 by 73, while the seats are placed on steps in a circular form. The smaller lecture rooms, however, have the old, familiar chairs with inches in front. At the westerly end of the main hall is the staircase hall, opposite which and communicating with the porch are three professors' private rooms or studies, each 10 by 12.
The whole of the first floor will be plainly finished in oak, with exposed beams slightly carved in the lecture rooms. As a precaution against fire the floors will be constructed like those in modern mills, with the exception of the upper flooring of seven-eighths inch maple. These floors will be constructed as follows: Immediately on top of beams is a layer of two-inch spruce, while above this is a flooring of seven-eighths inch maple. Another layer of hard wood is placed below the spruce and between the beams, furnishing a ceiling for the rooms below.
Ascending the main staircase, we come to three professors' rooms on the first landing. These are placed in a Mezzanine story and are similar to those immediately below. At the top of the main stairway, on the second floor, is the large reading room, 63 by 70. This occupies the part of the second floor on the north side, over the large lecture room. Here are all the facilities for reading in quiet and consulting the large number of books which the law student finds to be necessary. Fifteen large tables, each one 15 feet long by 3 1/2 feet wide, are placed at regular intervals over the hall. Each table is to be provided with an adjustable standard, to facilitate the use of reference books. At the north end of the room is a large brick fire-place with carved mantel. The windows are small, but arranged in such a manner that the light admitted is just where it is most needed. A railing separates the reading room from the librarian's room, which will be fitted with all the modern appliances now in ure among librarians to secure the quick delivery of volumes. This room, together with a librarian's private room, is directly over the professors' small rooms in the Mezzanine story.
Over the porch and vestibule, and directly opposite the large reading room is the book room, a two-story room which is to be fitted with light iron shelves and racks, similar to those in Gore Hall. This room will give ample space for all the additions which may be made for many years to come. It measures 28 by 45 on each story, with a bay 13 by 19, while the upper story has two additional rooms, each 28 by 33. Communicating with the book room on the eastern side, is the professors' general room, 28 by 33, reached from the vestibule by the turret staircase before mentioned. This will be fitted with a carved fireplace like that in the large reading room. Leading from this is the dean's room, which also opens into the reading room. The finish on this floor will be entirely of hard pine with exposed beams, as on the first floor. The basement of the building is given up to the lavatories for professors' and students' use, the boiler rooms and two large unpacking rooms from which an elevator runs to the librarian's room. All goods can be loaded and unloaded at the rear door of the basement, as the ground slopes considerably from the front to the rear of the building.
The heating of the lower floor is arranged by underlaying the floor with hot water pipes, and by driving the surrounding air by means of a blower through a large number of registers placed in the floor above. The upper stories are heated by air passed over the surface of the steam pipes by a blower.
The architect is certainly to be congratulated upon the external appearance of the building. Indeed he has most happily succeeded in uniting the appearance of a memorial building with the grandeur of a school designed for the student of the law. But in his desire to make the outside imposing he has not neglected the convenience and comfort of those who are to use it, so that after the 1st of September, 1883, the Harvard law student will no longer be obliged to point out to the visitor the diminutive Dane Hall as the law school of America's largest university.
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