Early Amherst College

Early Amherst College

Blair Kamin’s talk about Amherst College architecture is now online for viewing.

On February 25, Mr Kamin gave a highly informative talk about the early growth of Amherst College — the plethora of small contributions which made the college a truly local, community project, and Adam Johnson’s deathbed contribution which enabled the completion of Johnson Chapel. He also discusses the architectural roots of the campus plan — the acropolis, or ‘high city’ — and of the simple, austere campus war memorial.

You may view the recording of the lecture here.

Coming up next week: Dr. Julie Dobrow will return to the Amherst Historical Society to talk about her upcoming book, Crossing Indian Country: From the Wounded Knee Massacre to the Unlikely Marriage of Elaine Goodale and Charles Alexander Eastman (Ohíye S’a). She will give the lecture at noon on Friday, March 25, in the Woodbury Room of Jones Library.

Reading the Gravestones of Old New England

Reading the Gravestones of Old New England

History Bites returns to its live lecture format! Our first live lecture is scheduled for noon on Friday, March 11, in the Woodbury Room of the Jones Library.

‘The burial grounds of old New England hold a great range of poetic messages in the epitaphs carved on their gravestones, each one a profound expression of emotion, culture, religion, and literature.’

Author Robert Hanson will tell the story of his years-long reader’s walk among these old gravestones and he will share some of the learning he has gained along the way: identifying the source texts and authors chosen for these stones; interpreting some of the beliefs of the people who did the choosing; offering ideas on the ways these texts were accessible in remote towns and villages; giving a summary of the religious context of the times; and reflecting on how the language and literature chosen for these epitaphs expresses conflicted and evolving attitudes towards life, death, and eternity.

Copies of his book, “Reading the Gravestones of Old New England”, will be available for sale.

Coming up in two weeks: Dr. Julie Dobrow returns to the Amherst Historical Society on Friday, March 25, to talk about her upcoming book, Crossing Indian Country: From the Wounded Knee Massacre to the Unlikely Marriage of Elaine Goodale and Charles Alexander Eastman (Ohíye S’a).

Memories of War in Amherst

Memories of War in Amherst

The conflict in Ukraine has us all thinking about war, in its various forms. There are a number of war memorials in the town and its colleges, from the meditative war memorial at Amherst College with its panoramic view, to the Italianate Memorial Hall at UMass, and the Civil War tablets now in the Bangs center. And in 2018 Amherst College published an article about the collegiate experience during World War I – once known as ‘the war to end wars’ – which mentions the Black Cats of Amherst.
** And on Friday, March 11, History Bites will return to hosting live lectures when Mr John Hanson will deliver a lecture at noon in the Jones Library Woodbury Room. His topic: Reading Early Epitaphs in Amherst’s West Cemetery.

Early Architecture at Amherst College

Early Architecture at Amherst College

Our popular History Bites lecture series is starting its 2022 season. On Friday, February 25, a noon, we will host a Zoom lecture from Mr Blair Kamin:

Amherst in the Beginning: The Making of an Academic Acropolis

This talk describes how the people of the town of Amherst gave birth to the College—and how the Acropolis-like plan of the early College and its Greek Revival centerpiece reflected their highest aspirations. We’ll also consider the Northampton architect who likely designed Johnson Chapel and Adam Johnson, the childless Pelham farmer who left his fortune to the College, allowing the fledgling but cash-poor institution to complete construction of the edifice that bears his name.

“In a dynamic society like ours, the old sometimes needs to give way to the new, not just for ‘progress’ but to make way for new landmarks and new stories. Still, when we seek to convey the power of the past, it’s hard to compete with the arresting, three-dimensional reality of architecture, whether it takes the form of the over-the-top Tiffany dome at the Chicago Cultural Center or the restrained purity of Johnson Chapel.”

Blair Kamin, the former architecture critic of the Chicago Tribune, is the author of “Amherst College: The Campus Guide,” published by Princeton Architectural Press. He is a winner of numerous awards, including the Pulitzer Prize for Criticism.

Mr Kamin will speak over Zoom at noon on Friday, February 25. The Zoom link is: https://us02web.zoom.us/j/89873360775

And on Friday, March 11, Mr John Hanson will deliver a live lecture at noon in the Jones Library Woodbury Room. His topic: Reading Early Epitaphs in Amherst’s West Cemetery.

Lovejoy’s Nuclear War

Lovejoy’s Nuclear War

In the early 1970s, Northeast Utilities had developed plans to build twin nuclear power plants on the Montague plains. As one step in the permitting process, they put up a weather monitoring tower, to record the local weather for a 12-month period.

There was local opposition to the plant, as well as support, and in the early morning hours of Washington’s birthday in 1974, a local farmer and Quaker activist named Sam Lovejoy loosed the guy wires on the weather tower, causing it to collapse. In the tradition of Quaker civil disobedience, he then turned himself in to the local police, and demanded to be put on trial for his actions.

Lovejoy’s actions galvanized both sides of the debate, and a local group made a film about Lovejoy, his trial, and the larger conversation: Lovejoy’s Nuclear War.

Reminder: On Friday, February 25, at noon, Mr Blair Kamin will deliver a Zoom lecture on the early history of Amherst College’s architecture. Here is the link.