In 1905 the law school had outgrown Austin Hall and Dean James Barr Ames engaged architects to design a new building containing classrooms, faculty offices, and the Library. The first books were moved into the new building –Langdell Hall –in 1907, but the entire structure was not completed until 1929. The building was named for Christopher Columbus Langdell, the first dean of Harvard Law School and father of the case method for teaching law. Langdell Hall was most recently renovated in 1997.
Today the Library is the largest academic law library in the world and occupies the bulk of Langdell Hall, with a large classroom on each end. The collections, which include more than 2.3 million volumes on fourteen miles of shelves, support teaching and research at the Law School, and serve as a resource for legal scholars from around the world.
One of the grandest locations on campus is the fourth-floor Reading Room, where students and scholars can find a wide variety of comfortable and quiet study spaces. The room is open to the public and guest passes are available from the Circulation Desk. The Reading Room is flanked on the north end by the Caspersen Room and on the south by The Elihu Root Rare Book Room. The Caspersen Room, opened in 1948, is the School’s exhibition hall for materials relating to legal history and to the School’s own history.
The Caspersen Room is also the home of some of the School’s finest paintings, including “Isaac Royall and his family”, painted in 1741 by the American painter Robert Feeke. Isaac Royall, although not a graduate of Harvard, bequeathed land when he died “to be appropriated towards the Endowing a Professor of Laws in said College.” Thus, the Royall family’s coat-of-arms was adopted as the Harvard Law School seal. Other noteworthy items in the Room are the Dutch grandfather clock owned by the School’s first dean, the round desk built in 1927 for Dean Roscoe Pound, and Oliver Wendell Holmes’ lunch pail. The Casperson Room is open to visitors.
Upon leaving Langdell Hall by the building’s main entrance, please note the statue of Joseph Story, Harvard Law School professor and United States Supreme Court Justice in the entryway. The statute was created by Justice Story’s son, William Wetmore Story.