In his excellent guide to Amherst architecture Paul F. Norton has rightly called the Old Chapel (as the building is now known) “the finest example of the so-called Richardsonian Romanesque in the Amherst area,”
In it he has interestingly combined with strong Richardsonian polychromy the forms and decorative patterns which he had employed in so successfully in brick and his brownstone churches. The tower, for instance, harks back to the brick tower of Trinity Methodist (1870) and the brownstone tower of All Saints (1874). (It also looks forward to the tower of Earle s brick Pleasant Street Baptist church of 1890.) The corbelling under the gable eaves and under the tower belfry, the paneled effects on the tower, even the buttresses around the base of the building are those of Earle’s brick Gothic and Lombardic churches. Here they are strongly underlined by the contrast between rough-faced gray Pelham granite and reddish Longmeadow sandstone. Interesting, too, is his making his building essentially square with relatively equal gabled “facades” on all four sides. One speculates that, as the chapel-library was presumably intended to be the heart and center of the college, he wished it to “face” out in all four directions.
Amherst: A Guide to Its Architecture
(Amherst: Amherst Historical Society, 1975), p. 127. See also
“The Farm College: Its Latest Improvement,”
Springfield Republican, Jan. 4, 1885. Earle may have received
the commission through the influence of Obadiah B.
Hadwen, like Earle himself a graduate of
the Friends School, related to the Brown family, and one of the Quaker
elite of Worcester, who was at the time a member of the executive committee
of the Board of Trustees of the College. The
original appropriation by the legislature did not turn out to
be enough, with the result that the tower was not
at first completed (Twenty-Second Annual Report
of the Massachusetts Agricultural College, January, 1885 [Boston, 1885],
p. 10). The total cost was about $36,000.