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The third building built in the Wadsworth Atheneum complex was the Morgan Memorial Building. Hartford-born financier, J. Pierpont Morgan (1837–1913) proposed the gift in 1907 and gave $500,000. Morgan acquired parcels of land adjacent to the Wadsworth Atheneum to build an addition to the museum as a memorial in honor of his father, Junius Spencer Morgan (1813–1890). Morgan commissioned the architect Benjamin Wistar Morris to design the Morgan Memorial, after the architect finished the adjoining Colt Memorial designed and built between 1905 and 1910.

Designed in the English Renaissance Revival Style by architect Benjamin W. Morris, the Morgan Memorial is a massive two story structure made of Knoxville granite and pink Tennessee marble. This pink Tennessee marble was also used on the adjacent Colt Memorial building and on the Morgan Library in New York City. The central portion of the Morgan memorial projects farther out towards the street than the Colt Memorial in an attempt to echo the massing of the original Wadsworth Building.

Morgan insisted on lavish decorative sculptural embellishments. Bas-relief decorations and bronze gates adorn the east and west façades of the Memorial. At the base of the Monumental staircase leading to second story display areas, Morgan commissioned an inscription with brass letters announcing the dedication of the memorial to his father and his family’s ties to Hartford: “THIS BUILDING HAS BEEN ERECTED/ IN LOVING MEMORY OF/ JUNIUS SPENCER MORGAN/ A NATIVE OF MASSACHUSETTS/ A MERCHANT OF HARTFORD/ 1836–1851/ AFTERWARD/ A MERCHANT OF LONDON/ BORN APRIL 14 1813 DIED APRIL 8 1890.”Morgan asked Morris to design a barrel-vaulted hall with natural light, much like the Morgan wing at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. The building spans 35,961 square feet with vast skylights and historical Heinigke & Bowen stained glass.

The final full cost to complete the Morgan Memorial was another $250,000 beyond Morgan’s gift of $500,000. The construction of the front half of the Morgan Memorial was completed in 1910 at the same time as the Colt Memorial Building which forms a link to the Wadsworth Building. In 1912 when the funds for the rest of the building were amassed, construction began again. Morgan was able to see the Main Street façade complete on his last trip to Hartford.

The Morgan Memorial opened in 1914, a year after the death of J. P. Morgan. In 1917 the Wadsworth Atheneum received more than 1,350 works of art from his collection: Mediterranean antiquities, high Baroque objects, and unparalleled works in ceramics: Italian maiolica, Meissen porcelain animals and figures, and rare Sèvres porcelain and stoneware.

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The Morgan Memorial Building was renovated beginning in December 2009 to install new roofing, skylights, and conduct repairs the stained glass. Today it houses the old master picture collection and many of the gifts from the J. Pierpont Morgan Collection.


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  • Gaddis, Eugene R. The Spirit of Genius : Art at the Wadsworth Atheneum. New York ; Hudson Hills Press in association with the Wadsworth Atheneum, 1992. :
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