By 1905, just a decade after its founding, the Electrical Engineering Department had become a victim of its own success. Enrollment in the EE program had grown like wildfire and its meager facilities in Salisbury Laboratories were bursting at the seams. In an urgent note to President Edmund Engler, Department Head Harold Smith warned that the department was in danger of "complete strangulation."
Not long after that, the trustees authorized the expenditure of $200,000 for the Electrical Engineering Building, which was completed in 1907, occupying a prominent spot at the corner of West and Salisbury streets on what had been part of the Salisbury family farm. Built in the shape of an E, the new structure was a showcase for the most advanced electrical technology. There were dynamos and motors and electrical apparatus of all sorts for students to use, all controlled from a 40-foot-long, 7-foot-high switch panel.
A large open bay served as a general purpose lab and contained the largest pieces of equipment. A 10-ton traveling crane moved over the lab on huge I-beams to lift the larger pieces of equipment. Two wings housed offices, classrooms, a lecture hall, the department library, and a large lab for high-voltage work. In all, the building enclosed 900,000 cubic feet.
This space proved adequate for the department's needs for 50 years, though the changing nature of electrical engineering - including the electronics revolution created by the invention of the transistor - ultimately led to a decision to renovate the building in 1958. About 7,000 square feet of new space was created by flooring over the large bay, and research labs were established for growing fields like electronics, computers, microwaves and high-frequency circuits. The building also gained a new entrance facing the campus.
The building was ready for its next expansion and refurbishment in the early 1980s. An 8,000-square-foot addition was built with a modern facade facing Salisbury Labs. The space was needed not only for the expanding Electrical Engineering Department, but for a relatively new neighbor, the Computer Science Department, which shared the building until it gained a home of its own in Fuller Laboratories in 1990.
For its first 42 years, this structure was known simply as the Electrical Engineering Building. In 1949, upon the death of Atwater Kent '00, the Institute decided to formally name it for the radio pioneer. As part of the renovations in the 1980s, the large lecture hall was named for longtime faculty member Hobart Newell.
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Last modified: Thu Aug 8 13:54:07 1996