Constructed: 1950, 1954
Architects: Appleton & Stearns
Design and construction
Marston Hall is an approximately 63,000 square-foot academic building on the Amherst campus of the University of Massachusetts. The building is not located along a major thoroughfare, but rather joins a complex of interior campus structures.
The three-story building has a C-shaped plan and a symmetrical composition. The main central block includes 9 bays, with the building entrance at the central bay, and two opposing penthouse towers. The east and west wings are each 7 bays wide and define a rear courtyard. The building has a flat roof with a low parapet wall.
The building exterior is finished with machine-made brick laid in a common-bond pattern from the foundation slab to the parapet. The first floor is defined by a continuous limestone beltcourse with 10/15 double-hung wood windows, while the second and third floors have 15/15 double-hung wood windows. All windows have flat brick arches and limestone sills. In some instances, metal ventilation louvers penetrate the brickwork beneath the window bays, but appear to be original according to historic photography. Brink quoins distinguish the corners of the exterior of the building and the three wings are unified by a narrow limestone freeze and cornice.
The main building entrance is located at the south elevation and features a stone staircase to access an inter-floor level between the first (below grade) and second (piano nobile) floors). This central bay projects from the façade and is faced with limestone at the base with limestone quoins integrated with brick veneer at the upper levels. The entrance doorway is framed by limestone pilasters and a classical entablature with a dental cornice. The entrance includes double French wood doors with divided lights and a transom divided by a decorative arched colonnade. The recessed entrance vestibule is faced with limestone veneer. The frontispiece continues above the entrance entablature with a stone carved building plaque and a swans neck surround. The whole is terminated by the upper window bay and bracketed stone window case. Above is a carved marble seal.
This entrance is illuminated by decorative metal lanterns. A hanging lantern is suspended in the vestibule and the flanking masonry walls of the landing each featuring ornamental metal lamp posts.
Secondary entrances are located at grade at the north elevation. The rear wings each have projecting central bays faced in limestone at the first floor and brick at upper levels. The recessed entrance vestibule is faced with wood paneling. These building extensions both house staircases and are illuminated with large round-headed, single-hung sash windows framed by brick arch and limestone keystone. The top of each bay features a carved stone plaque indicating the date of construction.
Following the early 20th-century construction of Stockbridge Hall, the northeastern quadrant of the campus was devoted to the departments of engineering and the physical sciences. The laboratory complex, including Gunness Laboratory (1949), Marston Hall (1950), Paige Laboratory (1950), the Animal Isolation Laboratory (1953), and Thayer Animal Disease Laboratory (1957) were developed between 1949 and 1957 in the former agricultural fields to the north of Draper Hall.
The building was completed through a two-phase construction plan, beginning first with the west wing in 1950, and then following with the east wing in 1954. The structure was originally sited adjacent to zone of military housing and a cottage, no longer extant. The structure also originally included a 50’ radio tower on roof.
At the time of construction, the area immediately to the north of Draper Hall was occupied by the North Parking Area (extant, reduced in size). Access to the complex was provided by a road that ran from Olmsted Road along the west side of Paige Laboratory, and east between Marston Hall and Gunness Laboratory. The formalized vehicular circulation in these areas remains. Governor’s Drive was constructed to the north of the complex following the completion of the buildings.
Since the completion of the complex, the campus has grown with increased development between the core of the campus and the laboratory complex. New buildings that have impacted the complex include Knowles Engineering Building (1991) to the south and Marcus Hall (1966) to the east. Together with Marston Hall, these buildings defined a new quadrangle to the south of the laboratory complex. The Astronomy Building (1968), located to the north of Gunness Hall, has also impacted the landscape associated with Gunness Hall.
Increased formalized vehicular and pedestrian circulation routes, and parking has increased the paved surface of the complex, which was once set in open agricultural land. An historic photograph shows parking in the area to the south of the building, which is not occupied by a quadrangle with mown lawn and bituminous concrete paths. Historic images of the building show minimal foundation planting framing the entrances. New vegetation has been added to the foundation of Marston Hall.
Naming of the building
- From the Massachusetts Historical Commission, UMass Amherst Building Survey reports (2009).
- For additional information, consult the University Archives (RG 36/101).