As one of the final projects in the renovation and restoration of Widener Library, the bridge that formerly connected the Widener Library stacks to the Houghton Library reading room will be removed in spring 2004. During the course of the stacks renovation, the bridge was identified as a structure that did not meet current building codes and that posed security problems for collections, staff, and patrons. The bridge was closed permanently on the Widener end in March 2002.

“We had known for some time that we would be required to make changes to the doorways connecting the two buildings, but we had expected to continue to use this convenient route between the libraries. When we actually evaluated sets of designs for the doorways, it was clear that compliance with code requirements for safe egress would create new problems for the security of the collections,” said Nancy M. Cline, Roy E. Larsen Librarian of Harvard College.

Historically, the bridge has been considered a “temporary” structure because the terms set by Eleanor Elkins Widener Rice, who built the library, prohibit significant alterations to the exterior of Widener. In 1942, when Houghton Library was built, the bridge between the two libraries was also constructed. In order to retain the integrity of Widener’s exterior, contractors connected the bridge through a window in the east stacks. When the bridge is removed next spring, the window in Widener will be replaced and the opening in the Houghton reading room will be closed with a wall. This architectural change to Harvard Yard has been approved by the Cambridge Historical Commission.

– HCL Commmunications