Designing a Library


Sketch of the Gould Library from McKim, Mead and White, 1896.

Recreation of the McKim, Mead and White plan, 1933.

MacCracken and his administration initially disliked the rotunda believing it to be too ornate and dim for studying.  Unbeknownst to White, the Chancellor administered a competition between architects George B. Post, Henry Hardenburg, and Richard Morris Hunt to design the library. Nothing came of it though, and White proceeded with his design.

In this excerpt from a 1901 letter, MacCracken discusses his numerous contributions to the library's design.

Although initially angry over the reveal of MacCracken’s architectural contest, the chancellor and White worked amicably during the building process. The Chancellor put forth a number of ideas in order to make the library a better studying environment and the architect generally implemented them.


Following Jay Gould's death, his daughter, Helen Gould continued donating money on her father's behalf. The library is named in memory of her father.

Construction began in 1895 and completed by 1900. Upon its opening, the building received much praise and the interior is considered one of the finest ever built. The library consists of 16 Connemara marble columns, 18 seminar rooms, a glass domed ceiling, and Tiffany designed stained glass windows. White worked as an interior designer as well as an architect. By excelling in both fields, he created a cohesive piece of art.

The interior of the dome.

Installed in 1901 in the library's auditorium, the Tiffany designed windows became one of the most impressive aspects of the interior









The library remained mostly unchanged until a 1969 arson attack on campus. During a time of unrest at the University, a student threw five Molotov cocktails at the library, destroying a number of parts of the building, most notably the auditorium. One of the Tiffany designed windows was completely destroyed and the estimated cost of $10,125.00 to replace it was too pricey for the university.

Gould Auditorium, c. 1940s

Fire damage from the arson attack, 1969.


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