Founded in 1861, Vassar College is renowned for pioneering achievements in education, for its long history of curricular innovation, and for the beauty of its campus. Over the course of its history, the college has expanded from its original two buildings — Main Building and the Maria Mitchell Observatory, both National Historic Landmarks — to over 100 academic and residential buildings designed by some of the most notable architects of their day.
The Vassar Libraries are extraordinary and rank among the very best at liberal arts colleges in the U.S. The Thompson Memorial Library is one of the most exceptional examples of the collegiate gothic style in the country. The massive stained-glass window that dominates its interior space depicts Elena Lucrezia Cornaro Piscopia, the first woman to receive a doctorate (1678).
Main Building, designed by James Renwick Jr., encompassed more interior space than any building in the U.S. at the time of its completion in 1865. Originally intended to accommodate residential, academic, and administrative functions under one roof, Main today houses administrative offices and student residences. The College Center, a modern addition to Main, houses an eatery, art gallery, computer store, and student organizations.
The Vogelstein Center for Drama and Film, designed by Cesar Pelli, replaced Avery Hall, a 19th-century brick building that originally housed a riding school and calisthenium. In acknowledgement of the historical significance of Avery, the arched Italianate façade was retained and incorporated into the new facility.
The Frances Lehman Loeb Art Center, designed by Cesar Pelli, includes Vassar’s museum and sculpture garden. Matthew Vassar donated the original collection of 400 works including a significant number of Hudson River School paintings. Today the collection comprises over 20,000 works from ancient Egypt to the present.
The Chapel, completed in 1904, is notable for its Norman-style architecture and its 15 stained-glass windows: six from drawings by John La Farge, four by Robert L. Dodge, and five by Louis Comfort Tiffany.
The Maria Mitchell Observatory, where prominent astronomer Maria Mitchell lived, taught, and conducted research from 1865 to 1888, is now a National Historic Landmark and home to Vassar’s Education department.
The Shakespeare Garden was planted by students and faculty in 1916 using seeds they obtained from Stratford-upon-Avon.
Bridge for Laboratory Sciences, designed by Richard Olcott/Ennead Architects, is a state-of-the-art teaching and research facility that fosters multidisciplinary collaboration among the sciences.
Belle Skinner Hall of Music houses the Mary Anna Fox Martel Recital Hall, one of the best college music libraries in the country, an electronic music studio, practice rooms equipped with Steinway grand pianos, and a collection of rare and antique instruments.