Ross, Louis Warren
An alumnus of the Massachusetts Agricultural College (1917) Louis Warren Ross holds the distinction of designing more buildings on campus than any other single architect. Working largely in the neo-Georgian style popular in collegiate architecture in the mid-twentieth century, Ross designed more than twenty structures campus between 1935 and 1963, nearly all of which were dormitories. His work in laying out the campus' Northeast and Central residential quadrangles gave a visual coherence to the student experience and represented a major advance in the quality of residential life over previous decades.
Ross was born into a family of progressive agriculturists in Arlington, Massachusetts, on July 18, 1893. After graduating from the local public high school in 1913, he entered the the Massachusetts Agricultural College class of 1917 to study pomology. Active in all phases of campus life, he was considered by his peers to the “the most popular student in the 1918 gossip parties” and a “terror to even class men.” A member of Phi Sigma Kappa fraternity and the then-popular Mandolin Club, he played on the class football, hockey, and baseball teams, as well as the varsity hockey. According to his entry in the 1917 Yearbook, he was a believer in coeducation.
Like many of his peers in the Class of 1917, Ross graduated into military service during the First World War. As a Lieutenant in the 166th Infantry Regiment, 42d Infantry Division (the Rainbow Division), he was sent to France in November 1917 and than into the front lines in March 1918. Taking part in action on the Lorraine Front, at Champagne, and Chateau Thierry, he was issued a purple heart for wounds sustained on March 8 and for a gas attack on August 5.
Following demobilization, Ross returned to civilian life as a student in the Graduate School of Architecture at Harvard, receiving his degree in 1925, and then as an employee with the prominent Boston architect, Edward T. P. Graham. In 1935, he struck out on his own, receiving an early boost from his alma mater when he was commissioned to build a dormitory that would be called Thatcher House, the first of ten buildings that would comprise the new Northeast Residential Area. His work was favorably received, earning him a a gold medal at the 1938 commencement, and resulted in a string of commissions that kept him connected to campus for a further 25 years. His practice also included civic and academic buildings in the towns across the Commonwealth.
Toward the end of his career, Ross worked in more modern design traditions, reflected in the Student Union and Lincoln Apartments. He was an active alumnus and a member of the institution’s UMass alumni corporation which formed in the mid 1930s.
Ross married Dorothy M. Pickett in 1928, with whom he raised a son and daughter. He remained active as an architect almost to the time of his death on Sept. 8, 1966.
- From the Massachusetts Historical Commission, UMass Amherst Building Survey reports (2009).