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Widener Library 

From: American Landscape and Architectural Design, 1850-1920 

Widener Library, 1913, Horace Trumbauer 

Widener Library replaced Gore Hall as the College Library in 1913,when the former building became too small for the University's growing collections. [The Widener family, namely Eleanor Elkins Widener, the mother of Harry[2]] built the new library in memory of [her son] who had died in the sinking of the Titanic. Widener graduated from Harvard in 1907 and was a collector of rare and first edition books. He bequeathed his collection to Harvard, but wanted the books to be presented only when the University was finally equipped to store them properly. His family contemplated ways to fulfill his wishes, including adding a second wing to the existing building. They finally resolved to construct an entirely new library. The vast scale of the new building was necessary to adequately contain the university's enormous holdings. There are ten levels of load bearing stacks surrounding two courtyards and an interior rotunda for Widener's collection. The large size of the new structure and the imposing facade emphasized the library as the heart of the University. [1]

From:  Betty Goldman
chbettygoldman at
Date:  Sep 17, 2005

I did read, from what I thought was an accurate source, that the father also died on the Titanic.  I have found two websites, the first of which is not very clear regarding the fate of the father, whose name was George.  The second seems to be more accurate. Why there are such discrepancies among the several sources I have read is a mystery to me.  Obviously, one has never been able to trust the computer, but
I always thought we could trust our valued books.  Apparently not!

Try the following:

(Search for Harry Elkins Widener)
Although it states that the 3 Wideners (mother, father, son) boarded the
Titanic with their valet and maid, it does not mention the father's death at
all, nor those of the the valet and maid.


Here it states very clearly that Harry and his industrialist father, George, died on the Titanic. The valet and the maid do not seem important enough to require any mention of their death(s).  But since they were of the lower class, they too probably died, although one web site (which I've now forgotten), states that they all boarded on one ticket. Does that mean that the maid, at least, could have been saved?

I love mysteries like this and could go on exploring, but I'm in search of a job and had better return to the employment websites and let the Wideners rest in peace.

Image courtesy of the Frances Loeb Library, Graduate School of Design, Harvard University 

Originally from Bunting, Bainbridge. Harvard: An Architectural History (Completed and Edited by Margaret Henderson Floyd). Cambridge: The Belknap Press of Harvard
University Press, 1985. Quoted online at

2) The Quote said his parents built the library. In a letter from Betty Goldman Cambridge (chbettygoldman at she had read that the father had died on the Titanic along with his son.

Horace Trumbauer (1869-1938),  
Harry Elkins Widener Memorial Library, 
Three Sections 
October 30, 1912 

By:  Natasha Wallace
Copyright 1998-2005 all rights reserved
Created 10/16/2003



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