The Washburn Shops

Washburn Shops

100 Institute Road, Worcester MA, 01609

WPI’s second building, Washburn Shops, was built in 1868 and constructed under the supervision of WPI co-founder Ichabod Washburn, owner of the world’s largest wire mill. In line with Washburn’s vision of teaching students technical skills through apprenticeship, the building was conceived of as a working manufacturing plant, complete with a boiler, engine room, and blacksmith shop. There, thousands of WPI students learned woodworking and ironworking and made products for sale under the tutelage of professional mechanics.

When the required apprenticeship was abolished in 1955, Washburn took on new functions and equipment, including the 10-kilowatt nuclear reactor. In 1984, the building was completely refurbished and the north wing was christened the Stoddard Laboratories in honor of longtime WPI benefactors in the Stoddard family. Today, Washburn is the oldest building in the United States still used for engineering education; it houses programs in manufacturing engineering and materials science. Its facilities include the Metal Processing Institute, Materials Characterization Laboratory, and offices for faculty from the Foisie Business School. The building’s early function and ideals can still be seen in the manufactured bricks that make up its façade and in its distinctive arm and hammer weathervane.