The Photography Laboratory is a vernacular brick structure with a hip roof that features hip roof dormers. The building is nine bays wide and four bays deep on its main story, where the doors opening onto Hicks Way are located. The Photography Laboratory is set into a steep slope. As a result, the building is 1½ story on its southeast elevation along Hicks Way, while its northeast, northwest and southwest elevations are 2½ stories. The northeast and northwest slopes of the roof are slate with metal edges, and the southeast slope is asphalt shingles. The northwest slope was not observed. All observed window sash was wood.
The building’s main entry is centered in its southeast elevation, within a recessed area that is partially enclosed by a knee wall. The first story’s window and door arrangement is irregular, although the two hip roof dormers are symmetrically spaced on the roof. On the southwest side of the main entry are a double-leaf plywood door, a 6/6 window, a single-leaf door and another 6/6 window. On the northwest side of the main entry are one set of paired 6/6 windows, a 6/6 window, a double-leaf door and another 6/6 window. The southeast elevation’s dormers are framed by simple pilasters. The dormer at the northwest side of this elevation contains paired 6/6 windows, while the dormer at the southwest side of the elevation has one 6/6 window and a blocked opening where another 6/6 window once existed.
The southwest elevation is partially obscured from view by a chain link fence and a retaining wall. This elevation’s basement story is partially above ground because of the slope of the land. The first story contains four evenly spaced 6/6 windows. Two basement story 6/6 windows were partially visible from the Hicks Way side of the fence at the front of the property.
the northwest elevation is blocked from view by vegetation that grows behind the chain link fence at this side of the property, although the roofline is visible. Based on the shape of the roof, the Photography Laboratory has an ell on its northeast corner and a dormer on its northwest elevation, both of which have roofs covered with slate.
The Photography Laboratory is located to the southwest of the former Power Plant site and to the north of Thompson Hall. A bituminous concrete access drive is located to the south of the building, and the rear of the building borders a bituminous concrete parking lot associated with the Power Plant. The eastern and western sides of the building are bordered by areas of deciduous forest formerly associated with the ravine that drained the Campus Pond.
This structure was built as a power plant for the Massachusetts Agricultural College. Several other power station, boiler house and turbine house structures were built along the ravine in the immediate vicinity of the Photography Laboratory during the first half of the 20th century. A steam heating plant had been established on campus as early as 1902 in order to provide modern living comforts for residential and workspace buildings at the College.
The Photography Laboratory (1907) is first shown on a campus plan from 1908 in a wooded area adjacent to the stream that drained the Campus Pond. Access to the building is not indicated in the plan. The landscape associated with the building was undoubtedly impacted by the expansion of the Power Plant, which now joins the northwest corner of the Photography Laboratory. The access road was formalized along the southern side of the building and the nearby ravine removed with new construction in the area. Some of the deciduous trees formerly associated with the ravine landscape remain.