Bulfinch through the years
Share your memories and thoughts about this historic building
June 07, 2012
--Nearly 200 years ago, Andover embarked on its first fundraising campaign—to replace a wooden classroom structure that had burned down. That effort would result in the construction of Bulfinch Hall. The “commodious brick building,” as it was described in those early solicitations, was designed by Asher Benjamin.
Beginning next month, Bulfinch Hall—steeped in history and brimming with memories—will undergo a much-needed restoration. Through the years the structure has housed everything from the gymnasium to “The Beanery” dining hall, and since 1936 has been the home of the Department of English.
With 28 current English department faculty and all students in recent decades taking at least one course in Bulfinch, the building has become increasingly worn. “This is one of the busiest places on campus,” says Jeff Domina, chair of the department. Students, faculty, and classes will be able to return to Bulfinch Hall at the start of winter term.
Current and former faculty share their memories of Bulfinch (add your own thoughts below)
I love the ascent to the north entrance of Bulfinch. Every time I approach the building, at the top of that short yet dramatic climb up from Salem Street the anticipation builds—and then there they are inside: the colleagues and students from whom I learn so much every day.
—Jeff Domina, instructor and chair of the English Department
In 1978, Jorge Luis Borges, then considered the most important living writer, came to the Debate Room to talk about literature. Although in his 80s, totally blind, and hobbling on crutches (he would die in a year), he was riveting, talking passionately about Homer, Shakespeare, Austen, and his contemporaries.
—Lou Bernieri, instructor
I took all my students this year to [English instructor emeritus] Dudley Fitts’s grave, knowing it would be the final year of the architectural integrity of that great classroom in which now I practice. The room has held unspilt all these years the memories of that great man, his guest Robert Frost, and in whose blent air all our compulsions are met and robed as destinies. I have kept Dudley’s flag waving in that room, the dedication to classical literature and to the concept of the life of the mind developed along the lines of excellence.
—Tom McGraw, instructor
I have so many wonderful memories, but a powerful one took place in the Debate Room a few years ago during a master class conducted by the poet Richard Wilbur. After an hour of talk and reading, he asked if anyone would like to request a particular poem; I asked him to read his poem "For Dudley," a poem about the death of one of Bulfinch’s finest teachers, Dudley Fitts. The words, the location, the compression of time, the young students, and the old memories all made this a special Bulfinch moment for me.
—Jon Stableford, faculty emeritus
Architectural drawing of the addition