After circulating among the many red brick academic structures of Harvard University, one emerges at Massachusetts Avenue along a long flank of Cambridge Common to confront a small gabled white clapboard building standing alone in the autumn sun. Though it abuts the campus of Harvard College, Gannett House is actually the oldest standing structure of Harvard Law School.
A simple yet stately Greek form with a colonnaded front, Gannett House was originally erected in 1838, based on the design of Samuel William Pomeroy. First acquired by Harvard almost sixty years later for initial use for student housing, the modest building soon took on the name of one of the University’s early stewards. The Reverend Caleb Gannett, himself a graduate of Harvard, Class of 1763, had by 1779 become a tutor and a Steward of the College, a post he was to hold to his death nearly 40 years later. (Some of the Reverend’s papers now held in the University Archives record his news of the ongoing Revolutionary War.) Mr. Gannett’s own home had stood for some time on nearby campus grounds long since devoted to the construction of Austin Hall.
Gannett Hall’s siting at 1511 Massachusetts Avenue is a bit quirky. Originally aligned parallel to Massachusetts Avenue, with its formal front elevation directed toward Old Harvard Yard, at its hundredth birthday the building was rotated to the east, to allow for the ensuing construction of other nearby structures and a planned mall. As a result, Gannett’s front door is today directed inward toward campus, while its rear façade looks upon Massachusetts Avenue.
Today, tiny Gannett is one of the most intensively used of any of the Harvard Law School structures. The offices of the student-run Harvard Law Reviewhave resided in Gannett since 1925, as have a variety of Law School administrators. Also housed within Gannett are the Harvard Defenders, the Prison Legal Assistance Program, and the Pro Bono Program.