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.

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.