Brandeis University: The Campus and its Past

Description by Maggie A. McNeely, Assistant Archivist

A Map of Historically Significant Sites on Campus, 2009The campus that Brandeis University now occupies has undergone massive growth and change in a relatively short time span. From the University’s inception, its trustees ushered in an explosion of buildings, with the most dramatic increase occurring during the 1960s. When one walks along the narrow paths from building to building today, the landscape gives no indication of having once been rural farmland and eventually a bucolic campus—for Middlesex University—dominated by a castle and a few sparsely-placed buildings.

Brandeis inherited from Middlesex the following structures: The Castle, a converted stable for a library, a small crescent-shaped building with a wishing well and grape arbor nearby, a quaint farmhouse called Woodruff Hall, a rectangular dorm called Smith Hall, and the relatively new Science Hall (which came to be called Ford Hall), complete with a greenhouse. An apple orchard once stood where the science complex is currently located. Usdan Student Center was built over a city reservoir. With the exception of the Castle, all Middlesex buildings were eventually razed and many structures that were erected during Brandeis’s infancy have been altered. The master plans of Eero Saarinen and Max Abramovitz, and the buildings of Benjamin Thompson, Hugh Stubbins & Associates, and Sasaki & Associates, and the layouts of various landscapers and planners, have added layer upon layer to this bustling university on the hill.

The above image was created by Assistant Archivist Maggie McNeely using a 2004 aerial photograph of the Brandeis campus. Former buildings and places of historical significance have been marked by red dots with accompanying short descriptions. Compare this map to the current campus map.

The Archives houses important resources on the University’s architectural history. Some of our favorites include the following:

Archival collections that document the history and development of the Brandeis campus are also worth noting:

April 8, 2009