Mortimer Rare Book Room History

Construction of the 1962 Neilson Library Wings

The site plan from July 1960, submitted by O’Connor & Kilham Architects of New York City, clearly shows the two small additions added to Neilson Library during 1961 and 1962. The construction photograph from January 1962 features the northwest wing, with Wright Hall (left) and the original 1909 library building to the right.

Neilson Library Construction 1962
Site plan and photographs from the Smith College Archives
[Click on images to enlarge]

A later 1962 photograph shows Neilson Library with both completed wings, looking bare, before any landscaping was added. The Library’s additions can seem haphazard and detrimental to the original turn-of-the century architectural style of the main building. Also, since the northwest addition housed the library’s special collections, exterior plinths were built that partially block the windows in order to minimize light which could damage rare books and manuscripts. Today, these concerns can be easily ameliorated with UV-filtering glass and window shades. There was an outside entrance to the basement level directly into the Archives and Sophia Smith Collection, and the rear door of the main Neilson Library building was still in use as a regular entrance and exit (currently only an emergency exit). The College Archives and the Sophia Smith Collection, a women’s history archive, outgrew their space in the northwest wing and were relocated to the renovated Alumnae Gymnasium in 1982.

1962 completed construction on Neilson Library

1962 image by Dick Fish, who joined the staff of Smith College as a photographer in 1959;
his ofice and studio are currently in Hillyer Hall, from the Smith College Archives [Click on image to enlarge]