University of Massachusetts Amherst

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Building the engineering complex

1949 to 1966

The school started out with one building in 1947, the engineering shop, erected in 1916. A two-story engineering annex was completed at the end of the year with government help, but this building was completely destroyed by fire in January of 1948. It was rebuilt in the same year as a one-story building, which was used as classrooms and laboratories.

The first Engineering building to be so identified and built on this campus was Gunness Laboratory, constructed in 1949 at a cost of $400,000. One history called it “a very fine, one-story housing laboratories, faculty offices, and classrooms, was built of modern, fire-proof construction.” Additional buildings came “on stream” as follows. Marston Hall, one-half, 1950, $500,000; Marston Hall, one-half, 1954, $850,000. One historical document said that “The main building was completed [in 1954], when all the other sections were open for use by the engineering school. This building housed the office of the dean of the school; the offices of the heads of the departments of civil, mechanical, electrical, and chemical engineering; and laboratories for electronics, soil mechanics, metallurgy, and mechanics and vibrations. In addition were included the Engineering Library, numerous drafting rooms and classrooms, and one of the most complete and best-equipped campus radio stations in the East.

The Goessmann Lab addition for Chemical Engineering was built in 1959 for $1,000,000. The Engineering Laboratory (ELab) was built in 1964 for $2,200,000, and Marcus Hall in 1965 for $1,900,000. Summarizing, the five buildings, at a construction value (including equipment and furnishings) of $6,850,000, provided an excellent physical plant to carry out the programs of teaching, research, and service.

Much later, Knowles Engineering Building was built in 1990 for $5,100,000.

In fitting out the laboratories, very efficient use has been made of war-surplus equipment and material obtained and adapted to instructional use by students and members of the staff. As a result, the school has been very well-equipped at minimum cost to the Commonwealth.