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Know Your History: Williston Hall

Williston Hall was Mount Holyoke Female Seminary’s first academic building separate from the Seminary building. It was dedicated to the art and science departments. Construction began in 1874 swiftly after Arthur Lyman Williston, for whom the building was named, submitted the building plans to the Trustees. Completed in 1876, the building was beloved by faculty and students, and 1889 saw the addition of the Annex to house the quickly growing botany and zoology departments.

Williston Hall housed an incredible collection of casts, specimens, sculptures, and paintings, second only to Harvard and Yale. Unfortunately, almost all were lost in the electrical fire in 1917 that destroyed the whole building. Clapp Laboratory was built atop where Williston once stood in 1923.

Want to learn more about Williston Hall? Make sure to check out the Treasure Case at the entrance to the Reading Room, all about Williston’s construction. Be on the lookout this fall for a new exhibit in the Archives about the 100th anniversary of Clapp Laboratory.

Come visit the Archives from 1-4:30 pm Monday-Friday or contact us at for an appointment from 9:30-12 pm Monday-Friday.

InStalls June 2024

Floor plan and images of Willston Hall, Moutn Holyoke College, arranged in a scrapbook layout.