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New England Conservatory of Music

Foundations of America

QU201 Prof. Scott Leone

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Home Stony Creek Granite Sites Institutions New England Conservatory of Music

New England Conservatory of Music

Jordan Hall


The New England Conservatory of Music is the oldest independent conservatory in the United States.  The conservatory was founded by Eben Tourjee in 1867, who modeled it after European conservatories of the time.  The New England Conservatory of Music was first located in the Boston Music Hall off Tremont Street in downtown Boston.  The school moved in 1871 to the former St. James Hotel in Franklin Square.  Following these moves, it moved once again to the Symphony and Prudential Neighborhood on Huntington Avenue where it has been located since 1903.

The New England Conservatory of Music consists of four buildings that have been renovated in recent years, including Jordan Hall, and buildings on 295 Huntington Avenue, 241 St. Botolph Street and 33 Gainsborough Street.  Except for Jordan Hall, the Renaissance Revival style conservatory was completed by 1902 (Jordan Hall finished a year later).  The conservatory was built with the intent to make it appear like an Italian renaissance palace.

Architects for the building, including the concert hall, were Edmund Wheelwright and Parkman B. Haven with Wheelwright as the principal architect.  Wheelwright was given enormous freedom in design, despite never constructing a concert hall before.  Wheelwright did build the Horticultural Hall (completed in 1901), which showed that he was up to the task to complete this plan.  Wheelwright worked for the architectural firm of McKim, Mead, and White, the architects were responsible for the recently completed Symphony Hall.  The close locations between Symphony Hall and the new conservatory made it easy for Wheelwright to make comparative studies.  Wheelwright ended up constructing a hall that has been regarded as one of the best acoustically sounding concert halls ever built.

Edmund Wheelwright is considered one of New England’s most important architects in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century.  He was born in Roxbury, MA on September 14, 1854, and passed away on August 15, 1924.  Wheelwright served as city architect for Boston from 1891 – 1895.  In addition to the conservatory, Wheelwright designed the Boston Public Library in Boston, MA, Longfellow Bridge from Boston to Cambridge, MA, Anderson Memorial Bridge from Cambridge to Boston, MA and Oak Square School in Brighton, MA.


With assistance from Stony Creek granite, materials have been successfully quarried in Branford and Guilford since the late 1850s. The granite owes part of its success due to building trends, changing styles, economics, and immigration patterns. Its unique qualities have prompted its use in several world renowned architectural designs.  Specifically, at the tail end of the 19th century and early 20th century in respect to the New England Conservatory of Music.

The original portion of the New England Conservatory was rectangular in plan and ascends three stories from a high granite basement to a flat roof.  The building was constructed with brick and included limestone trim.  It also consisted of modillion cornice, wide frieze and molded architrave.  The first story separates from the other two by a limestone stringcourse.

The Gainsborough Street portion has a seven bay center section.  Three entries are flanked by globe lights.  All openings are arched and contain limestone keystones.  The upper two floors are divided into a three bay central section with flanking two bay sections by vertical strips of rustication.  Windows at the second story have limestone architraves and heavy entablatures, which are the upper sections of a classical building, resting on the columns.  The third story consists of limestone architraves.  Raised limestone panels separate the windows of the two stories.

The original Huntington Avenue portion facing South has a three bay center section with three bay pavilions at each end.  A center entry is flanked by two small windows, which make up the central ground floor of the central section.  This is framed by limestone architrave, and headed by an entablature whose cornice is supported by ancones, which are a pair of projections on either side of a block of stone or other material, used for lifting it.  Upper floors are divided by marbleized concrete ionic pilasters.  Windows on the second floor are round arched and decorated with keystones and balustrades, while those on the third floor have architraves topped by anthemion and scroll motif.  The end pavilions have arched windows with limestone keystones at the first story, rectangular windows with limestone architraves and triangular pediments at the second story, and small squared limestone architraves at the third story.


Huntington Ave.

(Above: Exterior, Huntington Ave.)

The St. Botolph Street portion has three bays, which are treated exactly as the end pavilions.  The remainder of the original section is brick with fenestration (the design and openings of the window) and a service entry.  A 1928 addition is faced with yellow tinted cast concrete restored by Tishman construction.

St. Botolph

(Above: St. Botolph Street)


Interior spaces of the building are oriented around Jordan Hall, a large semi-circular concert hall.  On the first floor, a corridor follows the contours of the hall with offices and public spaces.  Another interior corridor encircles the hall’s stage area.  In the actual concert hall, there is an elaborate proscenium arch, which is gilt finished and decorated with classical bay leaf garlands, wreaths and masks, as well as simple emblems.  Two figures hold a lyre in the large emblem, which crowns the proscenium. The organ casework, which is also gilt finished, has a paneled base with four Corinthian pilasters rising from it.  This decides the organ casework into three portions.  Each section is terminated by an arch and subdivided by cornices and pilasters.  The verticality of the hall creates openness in the building.  It also emphasizes the wood paneling of the walls and the fluted Corinthian columns and pilasters on the balcony level.  The hall’s coffered ceiling has gilt mouldings and a semi-opaque skylight.

The firm of L. Richard & Co. did the interior decorating of the New England Conservatory of Music.    The dull, soft Roman gold lines and clear colorings of the wall together with the soft brown and tan shades gave an effect entirely different from any other building in the New England area.  This design aesthetic was met with great approval and appreciation from architects and artists who have visited the building.  The company had sufficient experience in their work painting, decorating, and hard-wood finishing.

Jordan Hall officially opened in 1903 and is the principal performance space of the New England Conservatory.  It is also the only conservatory in the United States that is designated as a National Historical Landmark.  Despite its unusual floor plan, the hall contains excellent acoustics and seats on the main floor and horseshoe-shaped balcony.  All of those seats have unobstructed views of the stage.



Several famous musicians have taken the stage at Jordan Hall, including performers Pablo Casals and James Galway; pianists Angela Hewitt, Radu Lupu, Rudolf Serkin; vocalists Dawn Upshaw, Ben Heppner; conductors Arthur Fiedler, Kurt Masur; guitarists Christopher Parkening, Julian Bream; composer Aaron Copland; famed jazz musicians Stan Getz and Benny Goodman.  Jordan Hall is also home to “From the Top,” a National Public Radio classical show hosted by New England of Conservatory alumn Chistopher O’Riley.  The first ever concert in Jordan Hall featured the Boston Symphony Orchestra on October 20, 1903.  The dedication concert won favorable reviews since it revealed the illustrious grandeur of design and architecture of the building.

Jordan Hall Jordan Hall

(Above: Jordan Hall)

The Tishman Construction of New England began an extensive exterior renovation of the buildings in 2009.  Tishman is known for managing historical renovations as well as innovative approaches to building.  For Jordan Hall, Tishman needed to have the plans reviewed by the Massachusetts Historic Commission to be sure they were in compliance with the National Historic Landmarks program.  For the section on 295 Huntington Avenue, Tishman removed and replaced the slate roof, added snow rails and removed deteriorated wooden windows and replaced those with new energy-efficient, insulated aluminum windows with historic character.  The portion of the conservatory located on 241 St. Botolph Street included restoration to the original masonry.  Next, Tishman repaired the original brick and stucco façade at the portion located on 33 Gainsborough Street.

One of the biggest challenges in renovating the conservatory included finding marble columns and rosette medallions on Jordan Hall’s façade, which began to crumble after 100 years.  The original marble had been imported from Africa, but similar marble was no longer located in those quarries.  After some research, Tishman found a similar color and grain in Italy.  The marble was specially fabricated and installed once making its way to the United States.  Also, the top three feet of terra cotta trim with cornices were removed and replaced with terra cotta manufactured in California.  Tishman also repaired damaged limestone, and the entire façade was cleaned to remove 100 years of filth.  Cleaning is important to remove damaging pollutants such as sulfur and nitrogen oxides.  These pollutants accelerate façade deterioration.  This cleaning can be done with clean water from a municipal supply.  All the masonry joints on the façade were either cut or given new sealants.  Replacing the wooden windows was a challenge.  Windows located on the public facades facing Huntington Avenue and Gainsborough Street were restored in accordance with the U.S. Secretary of the Interior / National Parks standard, which required them to be removed, restored and reinstalled – not replaced with new windows.  Tishman also needed to replace the roof with an energy-efficient white roofing system through lighting materials used.

Prior to this renovation, another major renovation project was completed in 1995.  Since then, Jordan Hall has won several awards, including the 1996 Massachusetts Historical Commission Preservation Award, the Victorian Society in America's Preservation Commendation, the 1996 Boston Preservation Alliance Award, the Illuminating Engineering Society of North America Award of Merit, and the Illuminating Engineering Society 1996 Lumen Award, which deals with lighting manufacturing and caters to lighting professionals.

The New England Conservatory of Music regularly features world renowned artists, talented faculty and students, along with a world class music program that is difficult to find elsewhere in the United States.


Works Cited

American Architect and Building News. Vol. LXXXI. Boston: Houghton, Osgood &, 1879. Print.

Flesh and Stone. Stony Creek and the Age of Granite. Deborah Deford. Stony Creek, CT 2000

Tishman Construction. Tishman Construction Successfully Restores Four of the New England Conservatory’s Historic Landmark Buildings. Tishman Construction. Adam Bates, Apr. 2010. Web. 1 Oct. 2010. .

United States. National Park Service. Department of the Interior. National Historic Landmark Nomination. Print.

Last Updated on Friday, 10 December 2010 12:04  


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Uncirculated: Shrink wrapped in clear plastic from original Italian publisher, 1999. Ships with fresh samples of sparkling Stony Creek pink granite for historians, collectors, geologists and classrooms. Additional samples available upon request.