The New Neilson Library

The Stones of Smith College's Neilson Library

Document Type

Digital Project

Publication Date



The recently renovated William Alan Neilson Library is an exemplary blend of historical and contemporary. Neilson was first constructed in 1909 with funding from Andrew Carnegie, and much of the facade that is seen today is original to the building. Renovations and expansions took place in 1937 and a decade later the library was renamed to William A. Neilson Library to honor Smith’s third president. Prior to the most recent work, the last major renovation was completed in 1982.

Construction for the current renovation project began in 2017. For all of the Smith College community’s excitement surrounding these renovations, there has been minimal discussion on the origin of the materials used in new Neilson’s construction or the sedimentary materials that make up a majority of the building’s facade. While much of the history of the original building materials is unknown, the recency of the current construction has provided access to a tremendous amount of information about the stones used in the renovation project. Primarily drawing upon information from recent material data submittals, we have assembled a narrative of the geologic and geographic histories of Neilson’s stones spanning oceans and epochs.