Architects: James H. Ritchie
Goessmann Laboratory is a 2½ story brick Georgian Revival structure with a high basement and a side gable central section that is flanked by matching front gable ends. The 1922 building has a rectangular footprint. A large addition of 1957 is attached to the building’s north (rear) side. Goessmann Laboratory has a slate roof, stone trim, and a concrete foundation. The building is 15 bays wide and six bays deep. The building has a stone-trimmed water table.
The main entry is in at the top of a 13-step stairway, in the nine-bay wide central section of the building’s brick southeast elevation. The door is recessed within a large, classical stone doorframe which has a segmental pediment that is supported by Ionic pilasters. The pilasters have been scored horizontally to resemble individual blocks. The doorframe is surrounded by smooth stone sheathing that rises through the second story, where a 6/6 window is centered above the door frame, with a narrow incised stone panel at either side. The doorframe contains a large ornamental stone shield in the space between the lintel keystone and the segmental pediment. The double-leaf door has 3/4 glazing in its upper two thirds and 3/2 glazing in its lower third. A 3/10 transom is set above the door. Four evenly spaced 6/6 windows are located to either side of the door in each story of the building’s central section, including the high basement. The first and second story windows have stone keystones.
The ends of the southeast elevation are comprised of three-bay wide front gable sections, which have slightly projecting brick piers at their corners. Within the brick piers, each front gable section has three pairs of monumental brick pilasters with stone Corinthian capitals, creating three bays between the pilasters. In contrast to the brick pilasters, the intervening bays have smooth stone sheathing. The central bay contains a single 6/6 window on each story, including the high basement. The flanking bays contain paired 4/4 windows on each story.
The southwest elevation is six bays wide, with six evenly spaced 6/6 windows on the first and second stories. The high basement contains a central door, set in a stone or smooth concrete frame, which is partially below grade and is reached by a sunken stairway that descends from an adjoining campus walkway. The double-leaf basement door has 2/3 panes in the upper half of each leaf. A 4/2 transom is set over the door.
Goessmann Laboratory is located to the north of the Lincoln Campus Center. A series of bituminous concrete walks that lead to the building’s main entrance on the south side are oriented on axis with the front entrance, diagonal to the front entrance from the southeast, and parallel to the southern façade of the building. Vehicular access to the building is accommodated at the east side of the building from North Pleasant Street via a pedestrian walk that doubles as a service drive. The landscape surrounding the building is dominated by bituminous concrete walks. Between the walks are areas of mature deciduous trees over lawn. Planting at the building’s foundation consists of lawn and shrubs. Two bicycle racks are located along the main approach walk on axis with the front entrance.
Following World War I, the administration was cognizant that its core missions had to be expanded to meet the educational requirements of a rapidly industrializing world. For the first time, the university administration focused on the development of comprehensive 5- and 10-year plans which meshed curricula needs with facility upgrades and expansion. During the decade, the agricultural experiment station was expanded, the Brooks tobacco barn and associated farm land were acquired, new laboratories (Chenoweth, Goessmann) were built, and common spaces created (Memorial Hall). Funding, however, continued to inhibit development and the capital expenditure program was still heavily indebted to public sources.
West Experiment Station, East Experiment Station, Draper Hall, Flint Laboratory, Stockbridge Hall, and Goessmann Laboratory were constructed between 1885 and 1922 along the north side of Olmsted Road. Although oriented in an irregular pattern today, historically, the buildings were organized along the northern portion of what used to be Olmsted Road, later Ellis Drive. Historically, Olmsted Road was a street-tree lined road that curved around the west side of the pond, connecting to North Pleasant Street at both its northern and southern ends. Olmsted Road was removed between 1959 and 1973.
To the southwest of the complex were Flint Road (now Campus Center Way) and a ravine that ran to the south of what is now Campus Center Way, draining the Campus Pond. The area to the southeast of the complex was historically open lawn leading to the Campus Pond with a few scattered deciduous trees and desire-line paths. A pedestrian walk led through the open lawn, connecting Draper Hall to the intersection of the cross-campus walk and North Pleasant Street. This walk is no longer extant, obstructed by the construction of the Lincoln Campus Center. The construction of Hasbrouck Laboratory (1950) and addition (1963), Student Center (1957), and Lincoln Campus Center (1970) destroyed the visual connection between the Olmsted Road buildings and the Campus Pond.
Goessmann Laboratory (1922), located between Draper Hall and West Experiment Station historically featured a simple landscape consisting of a pedestrian access walk perpendicular from Olmsted Road to the building’s main entrance on the southern façade. Vegetation surrounding the building historically consisted of a low foundation planting. The loss of views of the Campus Pond, the loss of Olmsted Road, and the loss of historic vegetation patterns, primarily consisting of broad, open lawn with scattered deciduous trees has resulted in the diminished integrity of the landscape associated with Goessmann Laboratory.
The structure was named for Charles Goessmann (1827-1910), a Professor of Chemistry and Head of the Chemistry Department (1869-1907) at Massachusetts Agricultural College and Director of the Agricultural Experiment Station (1882-1907).
Goessmann was born in Germany, and was trained at the University of Gottingen and the Electoral College of Hesse-Cassel. His early research was in theoretical chemistry, organic and analytical. He then turned to technical and industrial chemistry for which he first gained international attention. Through the latter part of his career he focused on agricultural chemistry with applications in food production and crop growth.
He came to the United States in 1857, working in industrial chemical firms on sugar, sugar beets, sugar cane, sorghum, and salt manufacture. This led to his appointment to the faculty of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. In 1868 he moved from Rensselaer the Massachusetts Agricultural College where he established the College’s first Chemistry Department and a program of research and experimentation on agricultural chemistry. This led to his concurrent appointment as Chemist of the Massachusetts Board of Agriculture, a position that he held until his retirement. Goessmann’s research at MAC focused on seven areas of importance to the state in an era when food production within the state was of significant importance to the state’s economy and well being of its citizens:
Massachusetts of the first law in the United States requiring official inspection of commercially sold fertilizers.
In his professional career (1853–1907) Goessmann produced a total of 362 published scientific papers in journals and reports of international circulation. He established the Section on Agricultural Chemistry of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) and was elected a Fellow of that organization. He was a Charter Member and President of the American Chemical Society, recipient of an honorary doctorate from Amherst College, Consulting Chemical Expert for the Carnegie Foundation, and awarded the title of Professor Emeritus on his retirement from MAC in 1908.
Professor Goessmann and his wife, Mary Anna Clara (Kinney) led the successful effort to establish the first Roman Catholic Church in Amherst, Saint Bridget’s, which is still serving the community today. The architect, James H. Ritchie, was based in Boston and would later design Memorial Hall on the campus. His other works in Amherst include the Ray Stannard Baker House at 118 Sunset Avenue (which later served as the Sigma Alpha Epsilon Fraternity house) and the Lincoln Building at 40-50 Main Street. Ritchie’s work in Boston includes the Boston Consumptives Hospital.