Samuel Phillips Hall

For some years Guy Lowell, of Boston --- the school's very competent architect --- had been erecting on the campus buildings which were faithful to the Georgian-Colonial tradition. But Tom did not like Samuel Phillips Hall, and when a new science building was contemplated, he was dissatisfied with Lowell's drawings. One evening at the principal's house, Miss Grace Clemons spoke of Charles Platt as a brilliant architect recognized as a specialist on the American Colonial Period. With his usual speed Tom called Mr. Platt by telephone the next morning and soon brought him to Andover as a consultant. (Claude Fuess. Independent Schoolmaster. Boston: Little, Brown. 1952.)

Though Samuel Phillips Hall was built before Cochran became really active in Andover affairs, he contributed to it as well. He wrote Jim Sawyer of a small colonial church on Long Island "in the steeple of which is a clock that faces four ways. The faces of this clock are blue. Behind these faces at night there shines a light and creates a beautiful pale blue effulgence so that those gazing at the clock see 'a pale blue moon.' . . . . The whole effect is quite romantic and alluring." Nothing would do but that Phillips Academy should have a similar clock. Originally it was thought that it would be in the new chapel, but the decision was finally made to put it in Sam Phillips Hall. See Cochran to Sawyer, Westbury, Long Island, dated only "Sunday." (Frederick S. Allis, Jr. Youth from Every Quarter. Andover: Phillips Academy. 1979.)


Judge Samuel Phillips, Jr.

WHEN and where the first dim conception of a school came to Samuel Phillips, Jr., we have no means of knowing. His family had always had a respect for learning, and some of them had gained practical experience as teachers. At a period during the interim between his graduation from Harvard and his powder-making venture he must have done some reading about educational systems as they worked out in operation. When he came to formulate guiding principles for his ideal school, he must have realized that there was on this side of the Atlantic no satisfactory model for him to follow. (Claude Fuess. An Old New England School. A History of Phillips Academy. Boston: Houghton Mifflin. 1917.)

There have been six "Main Buildings" at Phillips Academy and being the primary recitation/classroom building, they have always been the focal point of the educational aspects of the institution. Their relative percentage of the total assets of the school, however, has changed throughout history. The first "Main Building" was not only the sole classroom/instruction building, it was the only edifice owned and operated by the Academy for student use. On the other extreme, today's "Main Building", Samuel Phillips Hall, is but one of six edifices used for classroom/instruction purposes and another multitude of residence halls and activity facilities. They have ranged in size from a single room building to one containing 28 recitation and examination rooms; from 700 square feet of instruction area to 27,000 square feet. The Academy has managed to keep the matter of education at the forefront of its priorities and has upgraded its facilities accordingly.

THE FIRST --- THE CARPENTER'S SHOP (1778-1786). The first classroom building had been built prior to the founding of the Academy and was a joiner's shop on the estate of Solomon Wardwell. Part of the real estate purchase from Mr. Waldwell, this building became the property of the Trustees-to-be on January 24, 1777. [...]

THE SECOND --- THE SECOND CLASSROOM 1786-1818). Formal planning for the second classroom dates back to the early 1780's; in 1783 a committee was formed to draw up specifications for it. Completed on January 30, 1786, at a cost of just over $3,000, it was erected at the corner of the turnpike and goose lane (now Main and Salem Streets), slightly to the west of where Brechin Hall was located and about where the Armilary Sphere now stands. [...]

THE THIRD --- THE BRICK ACADEMY (1818-1830). Construction of the third classroom commenced in the summer of 1818. Under the superintendence of Samuel Farrar, it was completed before the year was out.

The net cost of the building was $13,252 of which $5,000 was contributed by His Honor, Lt. Gov. William Phillips of Boston, a Trustee of the Academy, and $3,683 by President Kirkland of Harvard. It was placed directly in line with the Seminary buildings, on a knoll to the south. [...]

THE FOURTH --- THE STONE ACADEMY (1830-1865). The fourth "Main Building", known as The Stone Academy, was erected on the northeast corner of Main Street and Chapel Avenue. Squire Samuel Farrar was not only the architect but was also responsible for the supervision of the construction which started in 1829 and was completed the following year. The cost of the edifice was $10,352.90 and was paid for partly from accrued income of the Phillips legacy and partly from the sale of land the Trustees owned in Maine and in Canada. [...]

THE FIFTH --- THE MAIN ACADEMY BUILDING (1866-1927) In April 1865 every person connected with the Phillips Institution assembled on the lot selected for the new Academy building for the purpose of the ground breaking exercises. Everyone was present from "Uncle Sam" (Taylor) to the youngest pupil. Each person was expected to remove a shovelful of earth for the new foundation and, supposedly, there was to be a straight front line. Mr. Eaton commented, with a twinkle of the eye, "I know of no rule in mathematics that will warrant that line". Constructed to replace the Stone Academy, this "huge, ugly structure designed by a Mr. Cummings" was located approximately where the Samaritan House now stands. It was completed for dedication on February 7, 1866, and was used for exercises the next day. [...]

THE SIXTH --- SAMUEL PHILLIPS HALL (1924-Present) The present "Main Building" was planned in 1922 as part of the major Quadrangle development which included relocating Pearson Hall. Erected in 1924 through the generosity of over 2500 Alumni and friends, it was named for Judge Samuel Phillips, one of the founders. It was called the new Main Building for quite some time before the official name was selected. The architect was Guy Lowell of Boston working in collaboration with Charles Platt of New York City. Following dedication in June 1924, the first recitations were conducted at the opening of the winter term of the 1924-25 school year. The opening of this classroom building indicated the shift of emphasis from the west of Main Street to the east. (Robert A. Domingue. Phillips Academy, Andover, Massachusetts. An Illustrated History of the Property (including Abbot Academy). Wilmington, MA: RAD Publishing, 1990.)

Historical spots were conspicuously noted. Where the first academy stood was erected a sign reading "The Old Joiner's Shop. First Academy Building stood here in 1778." Upon the porticoes of the house standing in the same yard [Farrar House] was fastened a picture of Judge Phillips, the founder of the academy, draped with the national colors. Farther up the hill, on the other side, was another conspicuous sign: "Site of the Second Academy Building. Built 1786; Burned 1818," and on the street corner below was a third, which read: "Site of the Old Stone Academy. Built 1832. Burnt in 1864." (Frederick S. Allis, Jr. Youth from Every Quarter. Andover: Phillips Academy. 1979.)

The Stone Academy

TOWARDS the close of John Adams's administration, in the spring of 1829, workmen were excavating a cellar on the northeast corner of Main Street and Chapel Avenue; and soon there rose an oblong, two-storied, massive edifice, with thick walls of rough gray stone, and a slanting roof, surmounted by a high wooden cupola or bell-tower, on which was perched an equally tall weather-vane. The architect was 'Squire Farrar, who, obsessed by a craving for simplicity, had created a style that was all his own, not Grecian or Gothic or colonial, but essentially "Farraresque." Bare, somber, and unrelieved by ornamentation, the building resembled a jail or tomb, and seemed to be at once the strongest and the ugliest structure ever produced by the hand of man. This Stone Academy, which frowned so grimly at every passer-by, was the only school hall known to several generations of Phillips boys.

The Stone Academy, however, was originally designed as a home for what was in that day a unique institution --- an institution which, like the building, was mainly the conception of the versatile 'Squire Farrar. The story of the "English Department," or "Teachers' Seminary," ---the two titles were used almost indiscriminately, --- has about it some decidedly interesting features, especially in the contrasts which it presents. Andover, already distinguished for at least three successful first ventures in the field of education, was now to be the scene of another experiment. Upon the old and conservative Puritan Academy was to be grafted a strange, exotic growth; an emphatically modern system of instruction was to push its way resolutely into the holy precincts of classicism. The new institution was to be a composite: normal school, scientific school, business and commercial school, agricultural college, and other less significant elements blended promiscuously into one. It was amorphous, heterogeneous, crude; but, grotesque though it was, it had qualities which could not wholly die. As a matter of fact, it was not unlike the scheme originally planned by Samuel Phillips, Jr., before he came under the influence of Pearson's masterful mind; but in the year 1830 it certainly had little in common with the Phillips Academy over which Principal Adams so haughtily presided and in which the boys seldom wandered far from texts in Latin and Greek. (Claude Fuess. An Old New England School. A History of Phillips Academy. Boston: Houghton Mifflin. 1917.)

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. "We all know the Stone Academy," once said Dr. McKenzie, "and remember its large room where we met for morning and evening prayers; and above, the twin recitation rooms, and their cruel seats, and the narrow passage way between, ending at the door with the mystic and awful number." This "large room" was "Number 1," on the ground floor, where the boys assembled for religious services. On the left, as one entered at the door near the southwest corner, was a low platform, on which Dr. Taylor's chair was placed. Students as they came in had to face those already seated. In the northeast alcove stood a wheezy organ, around which were stools for the choir. Along the middle aisle were desks for the day scholars, and on either side were rows of hard wooden benches, certainly not designed for physical ease. At the opening of each term there was always an undignified and sometimes violent scramble for the favorite seats. The desks and benches were specimens of ancient carpentry, cut through and through with jackknives, and worn away by the boots of many generations of youth. Here in this hall the boys waited for "Uncle Sam" every morning, and rose ceremoniously when he stepped in after the short walk from his house across the street. When the morning ceremonies were over, there was a grand rush for the exit, Seniors going to the notorious "Number 9," Middllers to "Number 5," and Juniors to "Number 6." Members of the English Department retired to a wooden structure which stood in the rear of the Stone Academy.
The classrooms of the Stone Academy, all of them upstairs, were, with the exception of "Number 9," poorly lighted and wretchedly ventilated, and the boys, "cabin'd, cribb'd, confin'd," sat in them, pursuing their work under unhygienic conditions. "Number 9" was Dr. Taylor's peculiar bailiwick, where he was enthroned, flanked by maps of the "antique world" and busts of Homer, Virgil, and other classical worthies. In the summer term, as the days grew oppressive, he would sometimes show mercy, and lead the sweltering pupils through the Elm Arch to the cool first floor of the Brick Academy. (Ibid.)


The Main Building

The Stone Academy had always looked as if it might stand until the last trump; but it was not proof against fire, and, on the evening of December 21, 1864, it was completely ruined by a disastrous conflagration. There was some reason at the time to suspect that the blaze had been set by an expelled student who was seeking a contemptible revenge, but the necessary evidence was never forthcoming. The Trustees promptly voted that a new Academy Hall should be erected, and at a meeting of the alumni held at Commencement in 1865 a building fund was started, which amounted finally to $21,543. While the construction was going on, recitations were held in "Old Brick." The new Main Building was dedicated on February 7, 1866, with a large gathering of graduates present, this being the first celebration of this kind ever held entirely under the auspices of Academy alumni. The programme included a long list of speeches, with the principal address by the Honorable Philip H. Sears on Classical Studies as a Part of Academic Education. On the following day school exercises were begun in the new building, which has been used for that purpose almost continuously ever since. Architecturally, the essential ugliness of the building was only accentuated by attempts at ornamentation. It was, however, both comfortable and commodious, and its large assembly hall on the third floor and its recitation rooms and offices were ample at that date for the demands of the school. In its exterior it has twice been considerably remodeled, so that it is to-day rather more in harmony with the other structures on Andover Hill. (Ibid.)

The School's new architect and landscape designer, Charles Platt, of New York, was enthusiastic about the scheme and insisted that it could be done easily. The West Siders were converted by Case's eloquent arguments, and his plan was followed. The first step was to move Pearson Hall to its present location and to remove the ugly clock tower that had been added long after the building was built. Then came the removal of the large ledge of solid rock located where the new main building was to be built. As bulldozers, giant cranes, and other modern machinery went about this task, the School community gathered to watch---perhaps to the detriment of School work but certainly to the enjoyment of all concerned.(45) Samuel Phillips Hall began to take shape. The plans were the work of Guy Lowell; the basic decisions had been made by the Trustees and the Alumni Building Committee; the inspiration for its location was the work of George Case. When completed, it was indeed a "main" building, consisting of twenty-six recitation rooms, two large examination rooms, a room for faculty meetings, and numerous small rooms for offices. It was certainly an imposing structure, with two long wings in brick and a central portico with pillars. For the first time it was possible for each instructor at Phillips Academy to have his own classroom---and a handsome one at that. (Frederick S. Allis, Jr. Youth from Every Quarter. Andover: Phillips Academy. 1979.)

Promptly at two o'clock the first exercises began in the Great Quadrangle before Samuel Phillips Hall. A platform had been constructed jutting out from the portico of the building with an awning over it to protect the speakers. An amplifying system stood at the top of a tall tower erected for that purpose, and Radio Station WEEI of Boston had provided equipment to broadcast the proceedings to some unable to attend in person. Four bands were stationed at various parts of the campus to provide musical interludes. The only thing that was not admirably arranged for was the weather. A mist had begun to fall, and many in the audience had already put up umbrellas. (Ibid.)

The parade lasted about an hour in and around the campus and the adjacent streets.

Then at 9:30 followed another scene even more spectacular. On the steps of Samuel Phillips Hall, on the side of a huge, illuminated quadrangle, group singing had been scheduled. The boys marched there, and they Were followed by a crowd which may have numbered 10,000.

From the crowded portico of the hall as far as one could see, for at least 100 yards into the murky distance, the campus was covered with faces. Here and there in the crowd was a kerosene torch. Strung in lines were endless rows of colored electric lights. A quarter mile away, on the highway, motor lights blinked intermittently.

This entire vast chorus seemed to be hiding. It was under the direction of Frank H. Simmons, Andover, A brass band followed him, the boys followed the band and the crowd followed the boys. They sang old songs like "The Good Old Summer Time", "Two Little Girls in Blue", "My Old Kentucky Home" and others of the same vintage. Ordinary "group singing" is usually pretty pale fun, but this was spontaneous, and, like the parade, a wow.

According to residents, there never was a bigger crowd or more traffic in town at once in the history of Andover. All the surrounding cities poured out their inhabitants to see the show, and all who got within sight of the gorgeously-illuminated grounds got their trouble's worth. Great batteries of powerful searchlights played on the tall carillon tower and whitened the face of Phillips Hall. It was a marvelous show.

If the powers that be wanted to have a real celebration as part of the Sesquicentennial, it is clear that the boys stole the show. (Ibid.)

Another prank, less troublesome to the public but blasphemous in the eyes of Mohammedans, occurred one spring evening just after supper. The required senior course in American History was one of the most feared and most heartily cursed of all in the Andover curriculum. And, of course, it was that which most alumni later voted as their most valuable intellectual experience in the School. The evening in question was that before the dreaded final examination, upon which many a diploma depended. After supper large numbers of seniors drifted over from Commons to the Great Quadrangle in front of Samuel Phillips Hall, the chief recitation building. A good many idle spectators, myself included, followed to see what was preparing.

Suddenly, above the great pillared portico, a tall, turbaned form appeared, clothed in flowing robes. It salaamed, presumably toward Mecca, though I fear the orientation was faulty. Then the figure began a prayer the words of which I do not recall. As it prayed, the throng of seniors fell to their knees and then prostrated themselves repeatedly while cries of "Allah! Allah!" arose in the evening air. His prayer finished, the pretended imam withdrew, after another deep salaam. The Bible tells us that "the effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much." Whether it proved so in this case I never learned. (Alston Hurd Chase. Time Remembered. San Antonio: Parker's, 1994.)