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Boston College building and campus images

Collection BC-1987-012: Boston College building and campus images


  • Creation: 1880 - 2012

Scope and Contents

This collection is composed primarily of photographs of campus buildings, including Gasson Hall, Bapst Library, Devlin Hall, and Saint Mary's Hall. In addition to photographs, this collection contains negatives, glass plate negatives, slides, contact sheets, clippings from magazines, postcards, and architectural renderings and building plans. Most images are exterior or interior views of campus buildings.

Within Series I, individual buildings, Alumni Hall refers to a building on the main campus that housed the Alumni Association but was demolished. Alumni House refers to the Putnam House on Newton Campus, where the Alumni Association moved shortly before Alumni Hall was demolished. Photographs in Series III, exteriors and landscapes, include images of the entrances to Boston College, landscaping around campus, the Dustbowl, and the quad. The Dustbowl refers to a green space on campus framed by McElroy Commons, Fulton and Lyons Halls, on the space where Stokes Hall now stands. The Dustbowl served as event space for tailgates, commencements, and athletics. Series IV, Devlin Hall / Higgins Hall interiors, contains interior photographs of science labs with students and faculty members in either Devlin or Higgins Hall. Series V contains aerial views of campus. A small number of aerial views, focused on one building, may also be found in Series I. Series VI, bound volumes, includes a 1926 calendar with photographs of Boston College buildings, campus, and athletics for each month; sketches of campus buildings from Sub Turri; and Clifton Church photographs of campus with descriptions in Latin.

Of particular note are photographs taken by the landscape photographer Clifton Church of the early Boston College campus. Between 1917 and 1934, Church photographed the first campus buildings as they were constructed. Notably, the collection includes a series of drawings in pencil by the architectural firm Maginnis and Walsh of early campus buildings.

Photographs of groundbreakings and dedications for campus buildings are also included in this collection, as well as pictures of plans for the construction of several buildings, most notably O'Neill Library. In addition, this collection includes photographs of Boston College High School in the South End.

Unless the format is otherwise specified, the item is a photographic print.


Language of Materials

The primary language of this collection is English, with some items in Latin.

Restrictions on access

Collection is open for research; a portion is available digitally.

Restrictions on use

These materials are made available for use in research, teaching and private study, pursuant to U.S. Copyright Law. The user must assume full responsibility for any use of the materials, including but not limited to, infringement of copyright and publication rights of reproduced materials. Any materials used for academic research or otherwise should be fully credited with the source. The original authors may retain copyright to the materials.

Historical note

In 1857 Rev. John McElroy, SJ, purchased land on Harrison Avenue, in Boston’s South End, with plans to establish a Catholic college on the site. In 1858, ground was broken for the construction of a church and a college building. The Church of the Immaculate Conception was constructed out of white New Hampshire granite and designed by architect Patrick C. Keely. The college building, designed by a Mr. Wissiben, was built of red brick. Adjacent land was later acquired, expanding the college’s presence in the area, and, in 1863, Boston College received its university charter. The 1870s saw an enlargement of the existing buildings and the opening of a new college hall.

As Boston College expanded, it began to outgrow its original South End campus and a new location was sought. In 1907, land was purchased on the site of Lawrence farm in the village of Chestnut Hill on the border of Boston and Newton. A competition to design the new university campus was won by the firm Maginnis and Walsh who designed a campus master plan in the English Collegiate Gothic style. The first building to be erected was the centerpiece of the design: the Recitation, or Tower, building, now known as Gasson Hall. Named after Rev. Thomas Ignatius Gasson, SJ, President of Boston College between 1907 and 1914, Gasson Hall contains an ornate rotunda featuring a white marble statue of the Archangel Michael overcoming Lucifer. The building’s tower houses four bells named after prominent Jesuits.

The second building to be completed on the Chestnut Hill campus was St Mary’s Hall. Between 1914 and 1917, the Jesuit faculty of Boston College had to commute from the original South End campus, which contained Jesuit lodgings, to the Chestnut Hill campus to teach. St Mary’s Hall was built to give the Jesuits residence facilities at the new campus and included living and dining arrangements and a chapel.

The construction of St Mary’s was followed by Devlin Hall and the Bapst Library in the 1920s. Devlin Hall was constructed between 1921 and 1924 to house the expanding science departments. Later on, as the science departments expanded even further, the Physics and Biology departments moved into Higgins Hall, constructed for that purpose in 1965. Later still, in 1991, the Chemistry Department moved to the state-of-the-art Merkert Center on Beacon Street. The Bapst Library still inhabits its original Maginnis and Walsh designed building on Middle Campus. After extensive renovation in the 1980s, it now shares the building with the Burns Library, a research and archival facility.

The campus continued to grow throughout the twentieth century, both through new construction and through the acquisition of adjacent property. One such addition was O’Connell House, built at the turn of the twentieth century on the estate of the former drugstore baron Louis K. Liggett. The building and its surrounding land were later donated to Cardinal O’Connell, who used the house as a residence. After his death, the Church donated O’Connell House to Boston College, where it has been used as, variously, a Jesuit residence, a football dorm, the base for the nascent School of Management, and, since 1972, as the home of the student union.

Other important additions to the Chestnut Hill campus include O’Neill Library, designed by Walter Gropius’s firm, the Architects Collaborative, and opened in 1981; and the Robsham Theater Arts Center, also opened in 1981, which contains a main auditorium that seats 600, as well as smaller theaters and classroom space. The early twenty-first century has seen further large-scale construction in the form of Stokes Hall, an 183,000 square foot building that opened in 2013 to house the humanities departments.

Boston College In-town

A Boston College downtown center was opened at 11 Beacon Street, in the center of Boston, in the late 1920s to cater to graduate and law school students. An extension school was begun, too, at the original Boston College campus in the South End, offering a four year BA degree. In 1933, the downtown center became a college of the university, and in 1935 it merged with the extension school to become Boston College In-town. The newly merged college moved to larger facilities at 126 Newbury Street in the Back Bay. In the mid-1950s, Boston College In-Town was relocated to the Chestnut Hill campus, where it became the Evening College. In 1996, it become the College of Advancing Studies, and in 2002, it was renamed the Woods College of Advancing Studies. Boston College no longer owns the 126 Newbury Street facilities.

Newton Campus

Newton College of the Sacred Heart was a women’s undergraduate college that joined with Boston College in 1974 after suffering declining applications and financial difficulties. The Newton College campus buildings were built in a Federal style and were expanded and renovated to house the Boston College Law School, which moved to the Newton Campus from Thomas More Hall in 1975. The Law Library was added in 1996. The Newton Campus also houses undergraduate dormitories for freshmen.

Brighton Campus

In 2007, Boston College completed their agreement to purchase over 60 acres of land from the Boston Archdiocese. The grounds include a number of buildings, many of which are now in use by University administrative departments and by the School of Theology and Ministry. The campus includes 2101 Commonwealth Avenue, the former Archbishop’s residence, a forty room Italian Renaissance style structure now used for university functions; and the Theology and Ministry Library, a concrete, modernist structure set in a wooded section of the campus, designed by Architectural Planning Associates Architects in the mid-1960s.


“A Brief History of Boston College,” Boston College. Accessed April 3, 2020.

Donovan, Charles F., S.J., Dunigan, David R., S.J., FitzGerald, Paul A., S.J. History of Boston College: From the Beginnings to 1990. Chestnut Hill, MA: The University Press of Boston College, 1990.

Oslin, Reid, “Stories Behind the Bricks and Mortar: History Professor’s Walking Tours of Brighton Campus Prove Popular,” The Boston College Chronicle, November 1st, 2007.

Voosen, Paul, “Overview: The New Land,” Boston College Magazine, Summer 2004. Accessed June 21 2013,


47 Linear Feet (33 containers)


The Boston College building and campus images collection is composed of photographs and images of Boston College buildings and campus. Building photographs include exterior and interior views of individual buildings; views of multiple buildings and campus in general; and aerial views of campus. Images include architectural renderings, drawings, and copy prints of building plans for new building construction as well as renovations for Gasson Hall and Bapst Library.


This collection is arranged in six series: I. Individual buildings and structures; II. Multiple buildings; III. Exteriors and landscapes; IV. Devlin Hall / Higgins Hall interiors; V. Aerial views; VI. Bound volumes. In Series V, Aerial views, items are arranged by date and then alphabetically by title. In all other series, items are arranged alphabetically. Series I, Individual buildings and structures, also includes unidentified buildings and architectural renderings of proposed buildings that were never built.


The majority of these materials were transferred by the President's office. A small number of photographs of buildings were transferred by the New England Province in 1986. Others were donated by Paul Nelligan, SJ, and the Holy Cross Archives and Special Collections in 2000.

Existence of Digital Copies

Portions of this collection are available digitally. Links are included in the inventory.

Related Materials

Boston College Alumni Photographs, BC.1990.056, John J. Burns Library, Boston College.

Boston College Faculty and Staff Photographs, BC.2000.005, John J. Burns Library, Boston College.

Boston College Special Guests and Events Photographs, BC.1986.032, John J. Burns Library, Boston College.

Historical Names of Boston College Buildings

Alumni House: Putnam House

British Catholic Authors Room, Bapst Library: Reception Room, Board of Trustees, Committee Room

Chancellor's Office, Bapst Library: Librarian's Office, Director's Office

Francis Thompson Room, Bapst Library: Faculty Room, Special Reading Room

Gasson Hall: Recitation Hall, the Tower building

Hillside Dormitories: Ignacio and Rubenstein Halls

Irish Room, Gasson Hall: Assembly Hall, Gasson 100

Kresge Reading Room, Bapst Library: Old auditorium, Hall of Assembly

Lonergan Center, Bapst Library: Browsing Room, Reference Room

Newton Campus: site of former Newton College of the Sacred Heart

O'Connell House: formerly the Liggett Estate

Reading Room, Bapst Library: Periodical Room


Boston College Building and Campus Images
Jessica Meyer
August 2013
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the John J. Burns Library Repository

John J. Burns Library
Boston College
140 Commonwealth Avenue
Chestnut Hill MA 02467 United States