Bulfinch Hall

Early in 1818 a student wrote his family:

With a trembling hand and aching heart I attempt the painfull task of disclosing to you the afflicting scenes of providence I have latly [sic] witnessed. PHILLIPS ACADEMY IS NO MORE! Those sacred walls, within which the seeds of knowledge and virtue have been sown in my tender mind, where pious instruction has been faithfully given for many, years, where the sacred gospel trumpet has often sounded, where the impenitent have often been pierced to the heart by the pointed arrows of the Almighty ... I say those sacred walls, together with all therein contained, excepting a few volumes of the academic Library, lie in one undistinguished mass of ruin. The cry of fire! that dreadful cry, which strikes terror through the stoutest heart was heard one O'ck on Friday night. The ringing of the church bell . . . alarmed me and those with whom I reside, and called us forth from the sweet embrace of sleep, to behold the raging flames rapidly devouring our beloved Academy, which in less than 20 minutes lay prostrate in ashes.

One reason why the old academy building burned so fast was that it was made of wood, and the Trustees moved promptly to replace the building with something more permanent. After making temporary provision for the continuation of the school---the Seniors would continue classes but the younger boys could go home---a vote was taken to construct a new building on a line with those of the Theological Seminary. It would be made of brick and slate. Within a month plans for the building---the present Bulfinch Hall---had been approved, a committee had been formed to raise money for the project, and William Phillips had started the ball rolling with a contribution of $2,000. The fund-raising committee, consisting of Eliphalet Pearson, Daniel Dana, and John Adams, prepared an effective prospectus in which they pointed out that they could not invade funds given for charity students or for the Theological Seminary and therefore were dependent on the public to help them rebuild. They called attention to the fact that "the oldest Academy in the United States" had graduated over thirteen hundred students, three hundred of whom had gone to Harvard. And they appealed to the public not to let the institution die.," Their appeal was not in vain. The new building was started that summer with the redoubtable Samuel Farrar supervising construction at a salary of $300.00, and before the year was out, the School was able to move in. The Trustees had shown that, whatever their conservatism about existing routines, they could act with dispatch when the occasion demanded. (Frederick S. Allis, Jr. Youth from Every Quarter. A Bicentennial History of Phillips Academy, Andover, Andover: Phillips Academy, 1979.)

Bulfinch Hall
Designed by Charles Bulfinch and built in 1818.

It has always been a tradition that Bulfinch also designed the third Academy Building, now in use as the Dining Hall, and the general similarity of this structure to Pearson Hall confirms this theory. The Trustees voted, on March 16, 1818, in consideration of the sum of $2000 contributed by Lieutenant-Governor Phillips, to proceed with the construction of a new Academy Building to replace the wooden schoolhouse which had been consumed by fire on the night of January 30. It was a moment when workmen and contractors were busy with Bartlet Chapel, and it was perfectly natural that the Trustees, especially since Lieutenant-Governor Phillips was active among them, should turn to Bulfinch-then located in Washington---and ask him to plan another brick building on the same general lines as Bartlet Chapel and facing the same direction. Additional evidence is supplied by the Academy Day Book, which has an entry on April 10, 1819: "Paid Charles Bulfinch for Hardware, $23-18. Paid Charles Bulfinch for Hinges, $1." It is inconceivable that money for these articles should have been paid to Bulfinch at this date if he had not been the Academy architect.

Work continued on the Brick Academy during the summer of 1818, Mr. Phillips having added in August a further $3000 to his original donation. The total cost, when it was completed in 1819, was $13,252.73. It is interesting to note that the dimensions of the ground plans of the two buildings are almost the same, Pearson Hall being 88 feet, 3 inches, by 40 feet, 2 inches, and the Dining Hall 80 feet by 40 feet. According to Mr. Charles A. Place, the Dining Hall has several typical Bulfinch features, notably the pediment on the slightly projecting middle elevation and the beautifully proportioned cupola. The interior, because of alterations for various purposes, shows now little trace of the original plan. (Claude Fuess. Men of Andover. Biographical Sketches in Commemoration of the One Hundred and Fiftieth Anniversary of Phillips Academy. New Haven: Phillips Academy. 1928.)

On May 26, 1827, another venerable personage, His Honor William Phillips, died in his seventy-eighth year. From 1812 to 1827 he gave $500 annually for the support of needy students in Phillips Academy; he contributed $5000 towards the Brick Academy; and in his will he bequeathed $15,000 to the Academy and $10,000 to the Seminary. It was said by Dr. Wisner at his funeral that Mr. Phillips had, for a series of years, spent for charitable purposes from $8000 to $11,000 a year; and through bequests he aided various institutions to the extent of $62,000. (Claude Fuess. An Old New England School. A History of Phillips Academy. Boston: Houghton Mifflin. 1917.)

Under John Adams Phillips Academy was still conducted much like the grammar school of to-day: that is, the boys spent practically all day in the school building, with an hour's intermission for lunch, and did most of their studying, not at their houses, but at recitation-rooms under the teacher's surveillance. The second Academy building, which was manifestly inadequate to the requirements of the growing school, was destroyed by fire on the night of January 30, 1818, almost exactly thirty-two years after it had first been occupied. Before any fire apparatus could be brought up, the flames had devoured nearly the entire structure, and hardly a piece of timber was left intact. Subscription papers, signed by a committee consisting of Dr. Pearson, Dr. Dana, and Principal Adams, were sent out on March 7, making a vigorous appeal for funds, and work was begun at once on the third Academy building, the "Classic Hall" of Oliver Wendell Holmes, now in use as a dining-hall. Of the expense of this structure, amounting to $13,252.73, the sum of $5000 was contributed by His Honor William Phillips, of Boston, $3683.83 was subscribed by President Kirkland of Harvard, and others, and the balance was taken from various unappropriated funds. The new hall was constructed of brick in the best colonial style, the architect being the well-known Charles Bulfinch. It was placed exactly in line with the Seminary buildings on a knoll to the south.

As it was then arranged for school purposes, the entrance was by a door at the north end; on the wall at the south side hung the handsome clock, presented in 1819 by Mrs. Margaret Phillips, Judge Oliver Wendell's sister, who had married William Phillips, of Boston, Judge Phillips's second cousin. On its case this clock bore one of Judge Phillips's favorite sayings, --- "Youth is the Seed-Time of Life." It was invariably wound up in school hours by Adams himself, who mounted to it by means of a stepladder placed on one of the benches. While the boys waited expectantly, half hoping that he might fall, he would usually call attention to the inscription and improve the opportunity for a few "moral observations."

Dr. Jonathan F. Stearns has written a vivid description of the interior as he remembered it in 1823: --

Coming in the door at the north end, we passed the entrance of two recitation rooms, right and left of the entryway, and entered the main school room, passing between two high seats or thrones .... Just below, against the wall on either side, stood two immense Russian stoves of brick work reaching nearly to the ceiling, in which were kept in winter two roaring fires. Fronting all this array were the scholars' benches, --- in school hours with scholars in them, --- under the immediate eye of the authorities above. They were arranged in rows with double boxes, rising gently to the farther wall, with alleys between, and two scholars in each. The younger ones sat for the most part towards the front; the Seniors on the further end. And, in the back-seats, sat a row of monitors; full-grown men, old men they looked to me, whose office it was to call the school to order at the appointed hour, in turn, by hammering, up and down, the bench lid and shouting with authority, "Order!" And then, order was, right soon.

Thereupon, punctual to the moment, appeared the venerable John Adams, and took his seat, then Jonathan Clement, then the other assistants. Mr. Adams rose in his place and invoked the divine blessing, then read the Scriptures with Scott's Commentaries, made a few explanatory or instructive comments of his own, then read a hymn, which was sung, by all that could sing, under the lead of the Academy choir, then led us in more extended prayer.

Devotions over, occasion was taken by the Principal to attend to many matters of order or discipline which seemed to him to require attention in the presence of the whole school, and assistants retired to their recitation rooms, --- the morning classes were called, the books were spread out on the benches, and the low hum of school life showed the work of the day had begun. (Ibid.)

But Adams's influence was exhibited most decisively in the field of morals and religion. Himself a devout and earnest man, he felt a keen responsibility for the spiritual welfare of those entrusted to his care. "The pious," wrote Person in 1815, "are his especial favorites." On Sunday mornings he held regular Bible classes in the Academy building; on Saturdays the boys recited a lesson of about ten pages in Mason's Self-Knowledge; on Mondays they were called upon to give abstracts of the sermons of the preceding day and also to answer questions on several pages of Vincent's Explanation of the Shorter Catechism. For years prayer-meetings organized and conducted by the boys themselves were held in the unfinished third story of the Brick Academy, a kind of loft or attic where the participants were very much to themselves. A large proportion of the pupils --- according to Adams, one in every five --- later entered the Christian ministry, many of them as the direct result of a conversion brought about by the Principal. Nearly every class in his administration had a revival of religion at some time during the course. Nathaniel Parker Willis (1806-67), the poet, who graduated at Andover in 1823, used to tell his friends of a dramatic revival, when the "unregenerate" were visited in their rooms by church members, were prayed with and urged towards public acknowledgment of conversion. Willis in his letters home so alarmed his family by his morbid state of mind that they wished to withdraw him from school. One of his relatives in discussing the incident said: --

There is a sort of indecency in this premature forcing open of the simple and healthful heart of a boy, substituting morbid self-questionings, exaggerated remorse, and the terrors of perdition for his natural brave outlook on a world of hope and enjoyment. (Ibid.)

Holmes's account of his experiences in Andover, printed in a charming essay called "Cinders from the Ashes," gives a faithful picture of the school under Principal John Adams---whom, by the way, Holmes detested and therefore ignored. Not everything on the "sacred hill" impressed him favorably. The new Bulfinch Academy Building---still in use to-day as the Dining Hall---to him had a "dreary look" and seemed "bare and uninteresting." (Claude Fuess.  Men of Andover. Biographical Sketches in Commemoration of the One Hundred and Fiftieth Anniversary of Phillips Academy. New Haven: Phillips Academy. 1928.)

Johnson, who was no innovator, made little change in the daily schedule. Chapel exercises were still held in the Brick Academy, with much the same programme as that used by Adams. Dr. John P. Guiliver has given his vivid reminiscences of a morning service about 1835: --

No sooner was that wooden foot heard in the entry than we were all hushed. Every eye was fixed upon him with respect as he entered. Levi Wilder at the upper end of the room stopped tuning his violin. We rose in silence, while Mr. Johnson pronounced a brief invocation, uniformly asking that our morning devotions might be performed as "seeing him who is invisible." Then followed a few verses of Scripture, so read that a hidden radiance was made to flash out from its depths, as when a skilled lapidary holds before you a gem, so adjusted that all its inner light beams upon your surprised vision. Then came the hymn; and was there ever such reading of a hymn? With feeble voice, but with distinct articulation and melodious cadence, he would read such a hymn as, --

Oh, could I speak the matchless worth!

till the silence became oppressive, and the tears would start in spite of us. Then Wilder would draw his bow very gently for the final preparation, and lifting his head as high as possible, to make up for his lack of inches, would start the "service of song." And what singing that was! We had just passed through a powerful revival in which nearly every member of the two Academies had been hopefully converted. We all sang as well as we could. Then followed the prayer. If anybody had failed before to perceive Mr. Johnson's wonderful elevation both spiritual and intellectual, one of his prayers would be enough to inspire a respect bordering on veneration. He transported us into that unseen world, where he seemed habitually himself to dwell. (Claude Fuess. An Old New England School. A History of Phillips Academy. Boston: Houghton Mifflin. 1917.)

IN the occasional contests in Phillips Academy between established authority, personified by Dr. Taylor, and habitual offenders, it must not be presumed that the former was always easily victorious. Full-blooded, mischievous boys frequently became insubordinate, and the Principal was at times forced, in spite of himself, to resort to his last weapon --- expulsion. One of the earliest of the internal disorders, sometimes dignified by the name of "rebellions," which occurred during his régime, broke out in 1846, when a small but aggressive group of men in the Senior class, headed by William Stark, a grandson of the hero of Bennington, undertook to direct affairs in the Academy. Aggrieved by the withholding from them of various honors which they thought they had deserved, Stark, who had hoped to be Valedictorian, and his satellites so annoyed the Principal by covert criticisms and complaints, culminating in an uproarious public meeting, that he finally expelled ten of them only a week before the day set for graduation. Dr. Taylor's drastic action resulted in "fierce excitement" among the students, but no open outbreak ensued, and, with the departure of the culprits, it looked as if trouble had been averted. Stark, however, well supplied with money, had proceeded at once to Troy, New York, where, at his own expense, he attended to the printing of a catalogue of his own, an elaborate affair with a bright enameled cover, containing a list of students in which Stark and his companions were assigned the places to which they considered themselves entitled. In the list of instructors, also, Stark had included himself as "Teacher of Sacred Music." On the morning of the annual exhibition in August, 1846, Stark returned to Andover and succeeded in dexterously substituting his own catalogues for those provided by the authorities; thus, when the guests were comfortably seated in the hall of the Brick Academy, they found in their hands an unexpected treat. To add to the confusion Stark had bribed the band, engaged from Boston for the day, to forget its appointment, and there was no music to be had. During a few tense moments disorder reigned among the audience, and "Uncle Sam," uncertain as to what course to pursue, seemed for once completely unnerved. Eventually he consulted with a few Trustees who happened to be present, and then, mounting to the platform, managed to restore order so that the programme could be carried out. (Ibid.)

After the annexation of the Teachers' Seminary in 1842, the daily exercises of the school were held in the Stone Academy, the classic Brick Academy having proved unsatisfactory.  (Ibid.)

The Wednesday afternoon declamations, instituted by Principal Adams, were continued under Dr. Taylor, the oratory being of the florid, melodramatic variety so common at that time in Congress. The walls of the Brick Academy echoed and reëchoed with The Burial of Moses, Hohenlinden, Spartacus to the Gladiators (popular because it was written by Elijah Kellogg in 1843 when be was a student in the Seminary), and other rousing old-time classics. Small sums were appropriated each year for instruction in public speaking, which, prior to the arrival of Professor Churchill in 1866, was usually given in a desultory way by some impecunious "theologue." (Ibid.)

On July 4, 1865, the Trustees, after the burning of the Stone Academy, resolved that, when the new Main Building was finished, the old "Brick Academy" should be fitted out as a gymnasium. Within a year they appropriated $1000 for this purpose, and engaged Sereno D. Gammeli to act as Teacher of Gymnastics. On February 14, 1867, "Uncle Sam" announced that the new Gymnasium would be open that evening: Seniors were to come at 4.50 o'clock, Middlers at 5.25, and Juniors at 8 in the morning. The first floor was arranged for four bowling alleys; the gymnasium appliances were placed on the second floor, at the north end of which ran a low gallery.

In this gymnasium the equipment was meager and the apparatus was inadequate and poorly kept. As exercise was not compulsory, the work there, after the initial enthusiasm had died out, was usually desultory and confined chiefly to rainy afternoons. Nevertheless instructors were employed, and a few boys derived considerable benefit. Boxing, especially in the seventies and eighties, became popular, and Frank Dole, the boxing-master, had many pupils.  (Ibid.)

So the two boys ploughed their way through the choicest of Andover "corner drifts," up Salem Street, until they stood panting before the door of a forbidding brick building, commonly known to the boys as the "Gym." The place was guarded by desolate and leafless trees. Their limbs swayed and cracked under the load of ice as the boys approached.

Lambkin swung open the door with a vigor. ous push, and a damp, chilling, dusty breath which puffed out, did anything but encourage the new athletic aspirant. The bowling alleys opened before them, and chipped balls lay disconsolately along their gutters. On the left, the stairs ascended to the upper story where the leathern horse and the jumping board seemed frozen to the floor. The dust alone rose to greet these two with its usual hospitality. But Lambkin glowed with the feeling of a gymnastic sponsor. He put up the pins and John managed to roll the balls merrily. Indeed, had these young fellows not made pretty good time, the unwarmed December dungeon would have converted them into frozen nine-pins. Pretty soon Lambkin produced a base-ball and made John pitch. "This will act upon another set of muscles," he said.

Now John's hands and arms, as is often the case when another member is disabled, were abnormally strong. He had hardly found it out himself. John began awkwardly; he had never handled a ball before. He soon became interested. Bending forward or balancing himself on his well right side he sent the balls so swiftly that even Lambkin's capacious hands tingled as he stopped and held the stinging missile.

"What a pitcher you are!" said Lambkin, looking towards Strong in amazement after several minutes of vain wrestling with the ball.

"Where did you get it from ?"

John made no answer. The consciousness of physical power came to the invalid lad with a thrill that made him shiver. No well boy can understand this. John looked across the dreary building out of the high windows. It was beginning to snow. To the end of his life he will remember how that old gymnasium looked at that moment. The gaunt, cobwebbed windows revealed dead branches waving fantastically before the coming storm. (Herbert D. Ward. A New Senior at Andover. Boston: Lothrop, 1890.)

So far as buildings were concerned, also, the school was at a disadvantage. Andover Theological Seminary was well equipped, fully supplied with houses and dormitories; Phillips Academy had for its own merely the new Main Building, the eleven old Commons dormitories, the old Brick Academy (in, use as a gymnasium), and a few scattered buildings of no importance. The Trustees, as the Records and Dr. Bancroft's correspondence show conclusively, were more interested in the Seminary than in the Academy. Everywhere the Principal met with obstacles. His proposals were viewed with suspicion, and sometimes dismissed in curt phrases; but in the face of indifference he never ceased to present to his colleagues on the Board the immediate needs of Phillips Academy. (Ibid.)

Until the construction of Taylor Cottage there had been literally no place owned by Phillips Academy where students could bathe, and boys were fortunate, indeed, who had access to the set tubs in private houses. In the primitive gymnasium located in the old Brick Academy the apparatus was rusty and out of order, and there were no baths, either tub or shower, and no washstands. It is a miracle that the boys did not start a rebellion. At a school meeting held on May 20, 1891, they did take matters somewhat into their own hands by pledging over $1500 towards a gymnasium fund. When the situation was examined, however, it seemed best not to wait for a larger sum, but to expend the money for temporary relief; accordingly the Athletic Association erected a track house, which was informally opened on February 18, 1892. In it were several hot and cold baths, a large number of lockers, and benches for rubbing down. The Phillipian reported that the boys grasped eagerly the opportunity afforded them for daily ablutions.

On the morning of Tuesday, June 23, 1896, the Brick Academy was gutted by fire, only the walls remaining intact. The roof and cupola were at once restored, but it was evident that it would be undesirable to attempt to use it again for athletic purposes. The only practicable solution of the problem confronting the authorities was to make an effort to raise money for the new Gymnasium. Largely through Dr. Bancroft's personal enterprise $50,000 was finally secured, and the long-desired Gymnasium was started and named after its principal donor, Mr. Matthew C. D. Borden of Fall River. The building itself, however, was not dedicated until after Dr. Bancroft's death. (Ibid.)

The old Brick Academy, which had been burned in 1896, was transformed into a dining-hall, and opened in 1902 with over two hundred students. A central heating-plant, with facilities for heating practically all the school buildings, was ready for use in December of that year. The progressive spirit which Dr. Bancroft had so typified was not to perish with him. (Ibid.)

In the summer of 1902 the Brick Academy was converted into a Dining Hall by J. M. Bishop Co. of Boston to the architectural plans of Guy Lowell. Twelve large columns supported the second floor and hardwood floors were used throughout. A stairway near the north entrance led to the banquet hall on the second floor. A two story east wing, 31 feet by 33 feet, was constructed to contain the kitchen, serving rooms and a bakery. The culinary equipment was installed by Duparquet, Huot and Meneuse Co. of New York City; the plumbing, including a dishwashing machine, vent and gas were installed by W. H. Welch & Co. The Class of 1871 donated a set of china which bore the school seal. This "Beanery" served the dining needs of over 200 students. (Robert A. Domingue. Phillips Academy, Andover, Massachusetts. An Illustrated History of the Property (including Abbot Academy). Wilmington, MA: RAD Publishing, 1990.)

...a door opened, and I was escorted in to Mr. Harkness, who was sitting in front of a blazing wood fire, evidently at leisure. He inquired about my plans, and I explained that I wanted to establish five new instructorships, each paying the income on $100,000 --- that is, a salary of approximately $4000. He listened intently, asked some searching questions, and then moved on to general conversation about people whom we knew. As I shook his hand at departure, I felt very pessimistic ---and Mac Aldrich was completely noncommittal. About three days later, when I had lapsed into despondency, my secretary came in waving a letter in her hand. "I haven't dared to open it," she cried, almost as excited as I was. As I slit the envelope, I caught a glimpse of a long piece of green paper, and looked at it with my heart beating at the rate of a hundred to the minute. "Five hundred thousand dollars!" Needless to add, it was the largest check I had ever received --- or seen!

In my agitation I believe that I called up every member of the Board of Trustees by telephone. It was a period when the country as a whole was trying desperately to pull itself out of the depression, and this magnificent gift arrived at precisely the right moment to boost our morale. But when I began to reflect, I quickly saw that if we were to have five new instructors, we must have homes in which to put them. Mr. Platt had died in the autumn of 1933, just after his final building on the campus had been dedicated, and we had to engage another architect. I talked with Mr. William G. Perry, of Perry, Shaw & Hepburn, and asked him for advice. When his drawings and figures were ready, I called again on Mr. Harkness and explained my problem. "How much can you put up a modest house for?" he asked. I was prepared with the answer. "We can do it for about $15,000." "All right," he said at once, "I'll give you $75,000 for the five houses---but what about the classrooms?" I then told Mr. Harkness about the beautiful Bulfinch Hall, erected in 1819 and used for many years as the chief school building, but which during the late nineteenth century had been allowed to deteriorate, and after having been used as a gymnasium and then as a dining hail, had finally become a refuge for boxing, bowling, wrestling, and fencing, and even for the school band.

Mr. Harkness was apparently absorbed in my historical narrative. Then I added that I had consulted architects who had drawn tentative plans for putting a steel framework inside the brick shell and remodeling the interior to provide classrooms and conference rooms for the Department of English, together with an attractive small debating room. The cost, I explained, would he about $150,000. Mr. Harkness studied the drawings carefully and then remarked, "Mr. Fuess, you are certainly very farsighted. Did you have these plans made especially for me?" "I thought that I would be ready for anybody, Mr. Harkness," was all I could say. "Well," he commented, "it wasn't accidental that you had them with you." When I was forced to admit that I had him and his generosity in mind, he smiled and said, "All right, you go ahead with the five houses and the building. I'll take care of it."

Thus it came about that at commencement in June 1936, I was able to announce not only the Retirement Plan but also the establishment of the five new teaching foundations, the construction of five faculty houses, and the arrangements for the renovation of Bulfinch Hall. It is not strange that I said, "My heart is very full over these gifts from Mr. Harkness" A few, at least, of my dreams were coming true.


Bulfinch Hall, when rehabilitated, was as beautiful inside as it had always been outside, and the English teachers rejoiced in small sections of not over fifteen and in their personal attractive conference rooms. From being a structure of which we had all been a little ashamed it now became one of the show places on the campus. (Claude Fuess. Independent Schoolmaster. Boston: Little, Brown. 1952.)

Bulfinch Hall was dedicated on May 15, 1937, on which occasion I attempted to point out that it was a symbol of the process through which a school like Phillips Academy should advance, by making the past contribute to the present and the future:

The sturdy granite, the strong brick walls, still stand as firm as ever, but the building itself is modified to meet changed conditions . . . . The intellectual standard is as high as it ever was --- I believe even higher. But the method of instruction, the technique of teaching, have unquestionably altered. Rigidity is giving way to flexibility. Restriction is yielding to reasonable freedom . . . . Here the old Andover and the new Andover are joined, one merging with the other, and not averse to perhaps even greater transformations in the future. For education can never stand still, but must evolve in orderly growth, using the best of the old as a basis for the new. (Ibid.)

Dudley Fitts of the English Department was sui generis. There had never been anyone like him at Andover in the past, and it is highly unlikely that there will ever be anyone like him in the future. A distinguished poet and translator, an accomplished musician, a man who seemed to have read everything ever printed, he held memorable classes in the basement of Bulfinch Hall, where his barbed wit constantly provoked sparks in classroom discussion. (Frederick S. Allis, Jr. Youth from Every Quarter. A Bicentennial History of Phillips Academy, Andover, Andover: Phillips Academy, 1979.)

Pot Pourri, 1959