Austin Hall (Harvard University)

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Austin Hall
Austin Hall, Harvard University.JPG
Austin Hall
Austin Hall (Harvard University) is located in Massachusetts
Austin Hall (Harvard University)
Austin Hall (Harvard University) is located in the United States
Austin Hall (Harvard University)
LocationCambridge, Massachusetts
Coordinates42°22′37.4″N 71°07′7.6″W / 42.377056°N 71.118778°W / 42.377056; -71.118778Coordinates: 42°22′37.4″N 71°07′7.6″W / 42.377056°N 71.118778°W / 42.377056; -71.118778
ArchitectHenry Hobson Richardson
Architectural styleOther, Romanesque
NRHP reference #72000128 [1]
Added to NRHPApril 19, 1972
Austin Hall, shortly after its construction, albumen print, ca. 1883-1895
Entryway detail

Austin Hall is a classroom building of the Harvard Law School designed by noted American architect H. H. Richardson. The first building purposely built for an American law school, it was also the first dedicated home of Harvard Law School.[2] It is located on the Harvard University campus in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1972.[1]


The hall was built 1882–1884 in Romanesque Revival style. Single-story wings flank a heavy, two-story central mass, with the reading room extending rearwards to form an overall T shape. A central entryway framed with Romanesque triple arch is set deep within the building's flat front facade, with an asymmetric stairway tower protruding forwards to its right. The building is faced with Longmeadow sandstone in striking polychrome patterns, the light stones forming checkerboards within dark, reddish walls. The arches are of pale Ohio sandstone, as is the thick cornice band incised with a lengthy and sententious motto.


Austin Hall's first floor contains three large classrooms; these were designed to complement the new law school curriculum that was being implemented at the time by Dean Christopher Columbus Langdell, including large core classes employing the Socratic method. As this curriculum has been imitated by other American law schools, so has the classroom layout first employed at Austin Hall.

The building's second floor contains the Ames Courtroom, where students argue moot cases before panels of judges. A United States Supreme Court justice usually presides over the moot court's final round. The reading room's interior has been judged particularly fine for its ornamented fireplace and tie beams carved with the heads of dragons and boars.

See also[edit]


  • Jeffrey Karl Ochsner, H. H. Richardson: Complete Architectural Works, MIT Press, 1985, page 76. ISBN 0-262-65015-0.
  • Harvard Law School walking tour
  • Harvard Law School map