Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Historic Structures: Another Success for Preserve UMass

At the 29 September meeting of the Amherst Historical Commission, Joe Larson, Recording Secretary of Preserve UMass, gave us a preliminary briefing on the progress of the inventory of historic resources on the UMass campus undertaken as part of the agreement between the Commonwealth and the University after the latter violated environmental protection and historic preservation procedures in its demolition of old buildings.

The Opening of Massachusetts Agricultural College [predecessor of UMass]
painting in the lobby of the Murray D. Lincoln Campus Center, University of Massachusetts-Amherst

Preserve UMass has in the meantime issued the following press release
Date: November 8, 2009


Historic Assessment of UMass Amherst Campus Completed

Two years after the Amherst campus of the University of Massachusetts was placed on the 2007 List of the Ten Most Endangered Historic Resources of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, campus administrators have completed a major step in reversing this designation. An independent professional assessment has been completed of the 112 existing campus buildings built during the period 1728 – 1959, and the University has filed documentation with the Massachusetts Historical Commission on the historic and architectural significance of each building.

As a result of the assessment, 82 UMass buildings will be added to the state’s Inventory of Archaeological and Historic Assets of the Commonwealth, bringing the total University structures so listed to 105. Of these, 54 have been identified as eligible for nomination to the National Register of Historic Places, according to the consultants hired by the University: Einhorn Yaffee Prescott of Boston and other locations across the U.S., Vanasse Hangen Brustlin of Watertown, MA, and Pressley Associates of Cambridge, MA.

“We congratulate the University administration for selecting this outstanding team of professionals’ said Professor Emeritus Joseph S. Larson, Corresponding Secretary of the private organization, Preserve UMass, that had pressed for an independent assessment in 2007. “The significance of this assessment is that for the first time the question of the historic and archaeological significance of each of the older buildings has professional standing. This could not have been achieved without the cooperation of the University, the involvement of the over 125 supporters of Preserve UMass, the members of the Town of Amherst Historical Commission, and the staff of the Massachusetts Historical Commission. And we commend the University for retaining the professionals to conduct an assessment of the modern campus buildings, some of which were designed by nationally known architects. Preserve UMass views the combination of historic and modern buildings on the UMass campus as an important living exhibit of American architecture.”

In their report to the University, the consultants recommended establishment of a University of Massachusetts Amherst Historic District, saying that “A number of architects, landscape architects, and planners of local and/or national prominence were involved in the design of the individual buildings and the overall plan of the current University of Massachusetts Amherst campus. The aggregate efforts of these design professionals produced a distinctive public university campus landscape, primarily of the mid-19th to mid-20th century, which is unique in Massachusetts.”

Professor Larson reports that Preserve UMass will continue to be involved in historic preservation on the campus. “Our role will be to work for establishment of the Historic District, nomination of the 54 qualified buildings to the National Register, and full consideration of historic, architectural, and archaeological values in future campus construction.”

Note: A list of the 112 buildings and a map of the historic buildings (pdf files) are available from Preserve UMass on request by email to
We welcome this announcement and hope that the principle of respect for historic structures and cooperation with both the local and state historical commissions will now be firmly enshrined as a principle at all members of the Five College Consortium.

[image added]

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