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William R. Ware papers

Identifier: MC-0014

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Scope and Contents of the Collection

Incoming and outgoing Ware correspondence and reports deal almost exclusively with his role as educator and academic colleagues. Correspondence includes discussions of the architectural programs at MIT and Columbia.

William Ware was a faculty member at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) from 1865 to 1881. Corrspondence during that time period may relate to MIT and its architecture course. The reports and memoranda are from Ware to Seth Low, president of Columbia College, and explain the operation and progress of the programs under Ware’s direction.

These and the correspondence give a fairly clear presentation of the nature of Ware's relationship with each school. There is discussion of the causes of Ware's dissatisfaction with MIT and his plans for beginning the architectural school at Columbia College. Some correspondence includes a discussion of his theory of architectural education.

The collection includes an unfinished biography of Ware, possibly written by his nephew William Rotch Ware. This provides a good deal of information about Ware personally and professionally and thus is useful in understanding Ware. Throughout the biography are transcripts of some of Ware's correspondence used to illustrate areas of his life and career, from his publications to self appraisal of his accomplishments. The index of correspondents should be checked for extant letters in the collection that are mentioned in the biography. Those letters for which there are only transcript versions were not included in the index.

There are also two typescript drafts of Ware's pamphlet An Outline of Architectural Instruction and printed copies of "Competitions," "Drawing, Designing and Thinking," and "The School of Architecture: Its Resources and Methods," all written by Ware.

Box 2 of the collection reflects the personal life and academic work of Ware, but the value and extent of the information in the documents varies. The correspondence sent by Ware to members of his family (mother, Mary Lovell [Pickard] Ware; sisters, Harriet, Emma; brother, Charles) includes discussions of family matters, opinions about American political life and the Civil War, and Ware's European travels. Also included are letters from Ware's cousin, George Lovell, 1826-1868, family photographs, and published pamphlets by the Rev. Henry Ware. Sociologically, the papers reveal family life and interaction in the middle of the nineteenth century. Correspondence in folders 18, 19, and 20 is not included in the Index of Correspondents.

The bulk of this box consists of correspondence, but also includes journals in which Ware expresses his feelings about religion and Unitarianism. A majority of the entries were written as a personal analysis of sermons heard by Ware during his years as a student at Harvard College. The journals also contain drafts of letters sent (one in the 1851-1857 volume revealing his architectural aspirations) and a lecture outline, dated 1871, for a course in design.

Ware's artistic inclinations are expressed in the fables, poetry, and pen and ink sketches. The fables, which appear to have been published at an undetermined date, provide an interesting insight into the breadth of Ware's intellectual pursuits. Most of the poems were written by Ware and seem to have been intended for specific friends or relatives. Two of the poems were sent to Ware from his nephew William Rotch Ware and there is a verse game from Frank Dempster Sherman. The pen and ink sketches (possibly of English churches) are not signed, but were received with the rest of the papers and therefore have been retained as a part of the collection.

The final component of the collection includes obituaries, memorials, and letters of condolence sent to his sister Harriet Ware on the death of William Ware. These are all written by friends and former students.


  • Creation: 1826 - 1914


Access note

This collection is open.

Digital Access Note

Some parts of this collection are available online. Links to specific online digital items are found within their entry in this finding aid.

Conditions Governing Use

Access to collections in the Department of Distinctive Collections is not authorization to publish. Please see the MIT Libraries Permissions Policy for permission information. Copyright of some items in this collection may be held by respective creators, not by the donor of the collection or MIT.


1832 May 27
Born in Cambridge, Massachusetts, son of Henry Ware, Jr. (1794-1843), Unitarian clergyman, and Mary Lovell (Pickard) Ware (1798-1849).
Attended Hopkins Classical School?
Spent six months traveling in London and southern England.
Attended Milton Academy.
circa 1847-1848
Student at Philips Exeter Academy.
Graduated from Harvard College.
Tutor in private families in New York.
Attended Lawrence Scientific School and received degree of SB.
Studied in office of James E. and Edward Clark Cabot of Boston, architects.
Spent eight months as a student in the atelier of Richard M. Hunt in New York City.
Began partnership with Edward S. Philbrick, engineer.
Partnership with Henry Van Brunt; they established an atelier in their office.
Became a Fellow of the American Institute of Architects.
Appointed head of the proposed architecture school at MIT; taught drawing and helped organize the department at MIT.
circa 1866
Began collecting money for the Milton Scholarship.
An Outline of a Course of Architectural Instruction printed; presented as a paper read before the Society of Arts of MIT in December 1865.
1866 December - 1867 December
Traveled in Europe (England, Scotland, Italy, France, and the LowCountries) to study methods of architectural education.
"On the Condition of Architecture and Architectural Education in the United States." (Sessional Papers of the Royal Institute of British Architects, 1866 1867). Paper read before the Royal Institute of British Architects.
1867 September
Attended the Universal Exposition in Paris, France.
1868 October
Department of Architecture at MIT opened with sixteen students under Ware's direction.
Ware proposed postgraduate architectural course.
Postgraduate course established.
Ware did drawings for proposed new MIT building in Copley Square (not built); non-payment of bill by MIT provokes rift with MIT.
Served as secretary of the School of Drawing and Painting of the Boston Museum of Fine Arts.
Early use of stack system for book storage in American libraries implemented by Ware during alterations of old library building at Harvard University.
Greek Ornament published.
1881 May 11
Ware's letter of resignation from MIT as head of the architecture department sent to William Barton Rogers, president of MIT.
1881 Fall
Established the Department of Architecture in the School of Mines at Columbia College (University).
Traveled in Europe to purchase a collection of books, photographs and equipment for the new architecture department at Columbia.
Modern Perspective published.
Served as trustee of the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.
Visited Spain, Greece, Turkey, Egypt, Italy and France.
Elected chairman of the Committee on Art Schools, Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Received honorary degree of LLD from Harvard University.
"Competitions," American Architect, December 30, 1899.
"The School of Architecture: Its Resources and Methods" reprinted from Columbia University Quarterly, June 1900.
Member of the designing board of the Pan-American Exposition.
Trustees of Columbia University set apart Department of Architecture as a separate university school.
Spring, breakdown.
June 1903
Ware retired from Columbia University as emeritus professor.
Traveled to Europe; returned to Milton, Massachusetts, to live with his sister Harriet.
The American Vignola (2 volumes) published. Part I "The Five Orders"; Part II "Arches and Vaults, Roofs, Doors and Windows, Walls and Ceilings, Steps and Stairs."
"Saracenic Architecture," reprint, Harvard Engineering Journal, April 1905.
"Drawing, Designing and Thinking," Architectural Record.
Architectural Shades and Shadows (textbook) published.
1915 June 9
Ware died at Milton, Massachusetts.
"The Teaching of Architecture," abridgement of "An Outline of Architectural Instruction," Technology Review, April 1940


William Robert Ware, 1832-1915, was born in Cambridge, Massachusetts. His forefathers had a strong religious bent, as evidenced by his father, Henry Ware, Jr. (1794-1843), a noted Unitarian divine and professor at the Divinity School of Harvard University, and his grandfather, Henry Ware (1764 1845), who was a Unitarian clergyman. Ware's religious feelings are more apparent in his personal writing than in his professional work.

Ware is best known as an educator and as the founder of the schools of architecture at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Columbia University. He was educated first at Phillips Exeter Academy, and then at Harvard College, receiving a bachelor of arts degree in 1852. He worked as a private tutor in New York until 1854, then returned to Cambridge, where in 1856, after two years in Harvard’s Lawrence Scientific School, he received a bachelor of science degree. After graduation, he began his architectural career, studying first with James E. and Edward C. Cabot in Boston and then spending eight months as a student in the atelier of Richard M. Hunt in New York City where his fellow students included Charles Gambrill, George Browne Post, and Ware's future partner Henry Van Brunt. In 1860 Ware went into practice with E.S. Philbrick, an engineer. Several years later he formed a partnership with Henry Van Brunt which lasted until Ware left Boston for New York in 1881.

The partners established an atelier in their office, and Ware strove to provide the students with a good background in both practical method and theory. In 1865, he was appointed as head of the proposed school of architecture in the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the first American school of architecture. Ware traveled to Europe to study architectural education and to develop a program of study for MIT. For fourteen years he devoted himself to directing the fledgling program. Conflicts with the administration over the Milton Scholarship funds and an unpaid bill for architectural services rendered were the basis of Ware's growing dissatisfaction with MIT.

In 1881 Ware left MIT and moved to New York, where he established the department of architecture in the School of Mines at Columbia University (then Columbia College). He contributed to the development of an architectural program. He was aided by his previous experience, the establishment of other American schools of architecture in the intervening years, and the fact that Columbia as a college was already well established when the decision was made to create a department of architecture.

In addition to his role as an educator, he contributed to the establishment of the high standards of competition maintained by the American Institute of Architects, and wrote many papers and textbooks in the field. Ware is not as well known for his achievements as an architect, though he and Van Brunt designed and erected a number of buildings, especially in the Boston and Cambridge areas.


  1. Architectural League of New York
  2. Archeological Institute of America
  3. Committee on the American School of Classical Studies in Athens
  4. Permanent Committee, School of Drawing and Painting of the Boston Museum of Fine Arts
  5. Honorary member of the Royal Institute of British Architects
  6. Honorary member of the Societé Centrale des Architectes Français
  7. Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences

Buildings designed, erected, or renovated by Ware and Henry Van Brunt

  1. First Church (Unitarian), Boston, Massachusetts
  2. First Congregational Church, Boston, Massachusetts
  3. Old Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts
  4. Union Railroad Station, Worcester, Massachusetts
  5. Universalist Church, North Cambridge, Massachusetts
  6. Episcopal Seminary, Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts
  7. Sanders Theater/Memorial Hall, Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts
  8. Two dormitories, Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts
  9. Weld Hall, Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts
  10. Extension, Gore Library, Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts

Projects and competitions for which Ware served as a judge or advisor

  1. Indianapolis Soldiers Monument
  2. Philadelphia Art Club
  3. Madison Square Garden
  4. New York Public Library
  5. D.A.R. building in Washington, DC
  6. City Hall, St. Louis, Missouri


0.66 Cubic Feet (1 manuscript box, 1 legal manuscript box)

Language of Materials



William Robert Ware is best known as an educator and the founder of the schools of architecture at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and Columbia University. Also a practicing architect, he and his partner, Henry Van Brunt, designed and built a number of buildings in the Boston and Cambridge areas, including First Church (Unitarian), Boston; First Congregational Church, Boston; Episcopal Seminary, Harvard University; and Memorial Hall, Harvard University. This collection consists of correspondence and reports dealing with the planning and running of the architectural programs at MIT and Columbia, as well as family correspondence. Also included is an unfinished biography of Ware, some of his writings and sketches, and several journals.

Physical Location

Materials are stored off-site. Advance notice is required for use.


The provenance of the papers in box 1 is rather uncertain. The majority of the correspondence was given by Harriet Ware (sister of William Ware) to Harry W. Gardner (then Associate Professor and later Professor of Architecture at MIT) on 25 September 1917. In January 1943 Gardner gave the papers to the Rotch Architectural Library at MIT. The 1887 letter from Ware to Frederick Augustus Porter Barnard, President of Columbia College (later Columbia University), was given to the Rotch Architectural Library in 1938 by William Emerson, Dean of the School of Architecture. The unfinished biography of Ware was given to the Rotch Architectural Library by Dean Emerson in the summer of 1940. Each of these accessions has since found its way to the MIT Institute Archives. In March 1979, the Rotch Library transferred the remainder of the biography to the Institute Archives.

Source of Acquisition

The papers in box 1 came to Distinctive Collections (formerly the Institute Archives and Special Collections) in several accessions. See Provenance for details of custodial history. The papers in box 2 were given to Distinctive Collections (formerly the Institute Archives and Special Collections) by Annie Winsor Allen in 1978.

Related Materials

Department of Distinctive Collections

William Barton Rogers Papers (MC-0001).

John D. Runkle Papers (MC-0007).

William Ware and Ware family materials in other repositories Open Library: An extensive genealogy of the Ware family can be found in The Ware Genealogy, by Emma Forbes Ware, 1901.

Columbia University Libraries: Letters written by Ware to Warren P. Laird, relating to the founding, activities, students, and finances of the American Academy in Rome, ca. 1894-1900.

Harvard University Archives: Papers of Henry Ware, Jr. (Ware's father).

Schlesinger Library at Radcliffe: Papers of Annie Winsor Allen, which contain family related material.

Massachusetts Historical Society: Ware Family Papers.

Separated Materials note

Material received with the collection which did not relate specifically to Ware and was felt to be inappropriate in this collection was transferred to the Harvard University Archives, the Schlesinger Library, the Massachusetts Historical Society, and the Northborough Historical Collections.


  • Chewning, John Andrew. "William Robert Ware and the Beginnings of Architectural Education in the United States, 1861-1881. Ph.D. dissertation, MIT, 1986.
  • Stratton, Julius A., and Loretta H. Mannix. Mind and Hand: The Birth of MIT. Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 2005.
  • Ware, William Robert. An Outline of a Course of Architectural Instruction. Boston, 1866.

Processing Information note

Box 2 was previously designated collection number MC-0019.

Guide to the Papers of William R. Ware
Ready For Review
Nora Murphy
(Copyright 1979)
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Revision Statements

  • 2021 July 20: Edited by Lana Mason for compliance with DACS single-level optimum requirements and to remove aggrandizing language in the biographical and scope and content notes description.
  • 2022 March 15: Edited by LaChelle Barton and Chris Tanguay to add information about correspondents.

Repository Details

Part of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Libraries. Department of Distinctive Collections Repository

Massachusetts Institute of Technology Libraries
Building 14N-118
77 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge MA 02139-4307 US