Levy Mayer Hall/Cloister Gardens

Levy Mayer Hall, one of the first buildings on Northwestern’s new Chicago Campus, opened in 1926 as the new home of Northwestern University’s School of Law. Since 1902, the Law School had shared the Northwestern University Building (the former Tremont House Hotel on the corner of Lake and Dearborn streets in Chicago) with the School of Commerce and the Dental School.

Levy Mayer Hall was financed by a gift of $500,000 from Mrs. Rachel (Meyer) Mayer in memory of her husband, Levy Mayer (1858-1922), a prominent Chicago attorney. Before his death in 1922, Mayer had expressed an interest in funding the building. Funds for the completion of the building’s interior, including equipment and furnishings, were raised by the Law School Alumni Association. The Elbert H. Gary Law Library wing was financed by a gift of $250,000 from Elbert H. Gary, founder of U.S. Steel Corporation and principal donor of the books that made up the library’s initial holdings. The Cloister Garden in the building’s interior quadrangle was made possible by a separate gift from Hortense Mayer (Walter L.) Hirsch, daughter of Levy and Rachel Mayer, in honor of her father.

Like the other new Chicago campus buildings, Levy Mayer Hall was designed by architect James Gamble Rogers in a modernized Tudor Gothic style. Groundbreaking for Levy Mayer Hall was held in conjunction with groundbreaking ceremonies for the entire Chicago Campus on May 8, 1925. Construction began that fall and the cornerstone was laid on June 11, 1926. On June 16, 1927, day-long dedication events were held that included tours of the new building, a luncheon for alumni, a formal reception with speeches by dignitaries, and an evening banquet.

Levy Mayer Hall is a U-shaped building constructed of Bedford limestone. It is four stories tall on the front or northern exposure, with two three-story wings on either end. The east wing houses the Gary Law Library. The west wing houses lecture halls. As originally constructed, an arcade formed the southern exposure, creating a quadrangle housing the Cloister Garden. In 1959 the Robert McCormick Hall was constructed to form the southern wall of the quadrangle, increasing classroom space and providing room for the library’s expanding collection of books. Levy Mayer Hall is noted for its ivy-covered walls, stained glass windows and distinguished interior spaces, including Lincoln Hall, which is much like a scaled down version of the British House of Commons.

Levy Mayer Hall, Exterior: Cloister Garden, looking toward building

Quick Facts

Date: 1926

Architect: James Gamble Rogers

Named for: Chicago attorney Levy Mayer

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