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Building Overview: Langdell Hall

In 1905, Dean James Barr Ames engaged the architects Shepley, Rutan, and Coolidge (the firm that succeeded Henry Hobson Richardson, designer of Austin Hall) to design a new building that would contain classrooms, faculty offices, and the Library. The new building - the southern portion of the present Langdell Hall - was occupied in 1907. In 1929 the northern and western portions were completed under the direction of the same architects, then renamed Coolidge, Shepley, Bulfinch, and Abbot. The building was named for Christopher Columbus Langdell, the first dean of Harvard Law School (1870-1895) and father of the case method of teaching law.

In the mid-90s Langdell Hall underwent a major renovation, overseen by the successor firm (renamed Shepley, Bulfinch, Richardson, and Abbott) of the original architect. The Library now occupies the entire building except for a suite of emeriti faculty offices on the third floor and two large classrooms: Kingsley Ellis Hall on the south end of the building and the Vorenberg Classroom named for Watergate Assistant Special Prosecutor, and the ninth dean of Harvard Law School, James Vorenberg, on the north.

The Main Reading Room on the fourth floor, where students study under the watchful eyes of portraits of HLS dignitaries, is open to the public. Guest passes are available at the Circulation Desk, located on the second floor. At the north end of the Reading Room is the Caspersen Room, where rare books, manuscripts, and the most valuable paintings in the Arts and Visual Materials Collection are displayed, as well as exhibits pertaining to Law School history. Visitors are welcome.

In addition to the busts and plaques found throughout Langdell, the entrance foyer contains a statue of Joseph Story, Harvard Law School professor (1829-1845) and United States Supreme Court Justice (1811-1845), the first person to hold both positions. The sculptor was Story's son, William Wetmore Story.

Last modified: October 29, 2013

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