Architects: Alderman and Alderman
Design and construction
Federal Circle was one of two areas (along with Commonwealth Circle) developed to accommodate returning World War Two veterans. Located on the southwestern edge of central campus, Federal Circle became the site of five hastily built, no frills dormitories, Berkshire, Hampshire, and Middlesex Houses, which still stand, and Plymouth and Suffolk Houses, which were demolished in the late 1960s.
Built on the area formerly occupied by the R.O.T.C. cavalry riding grounds, the Federal Circle dormitories were three-story concrete frame buildings with full basements and flat roofs, oriented along a north-south axis with apartments located on the east and west sides of a central corridor. Although they are solidly built – more so than the temporary buildings of Commonwealth Circle – the buildings betray the haste with which they were designed and constructed to meet the influx of returning veterans. Unlike the other buildings constructed at UMass to that point, the architects paid little attention to historical style of detail; they are unadorned, purely functional, and manufactured of concrete masonry units and machine-made brick.
The expansion and realignment of Massachusetts Avenue removed the complex’s original vehicular access, and a small parking area located to the west of the buildings was replaced by the larger parking fields to the east. Vegetation surrounding the buildings has historically consisted of deciduous and evergreen trees over mown lawn with no foundation planting.
Naming of the building
The structures were named for the Massachusetts counties Berkshire, Hampshire, Middlesex, Plymouth, and Suffolk.
- From the Massachusetts Historical Commission, UMass Amherst Building Survey reports (2009).