Lesley University expands Brattle Street presence with purchase of historic Episcopal Divinity School buildings


CAMBRIDGE, MA. — Lesley University announced the purchase of the historic buildings formerly owned by the Episcopal Divinity School (EDS). The purchase makes Lesley the sole owner of the 4.4-acre Brattle Campus and positions the university to support its strategic planning initiative, Lesley 2030.

The purchase includes five buildings and the remaining half of a shared structure, including a number of Roxbury puddingstone buildings trimmed with limestone or red brick:

  • St. John’s Memorial Chapel, an 1867-built chapel of about 10,000 square feet, at 91 Brattle St.
  • Wright Hall, a former library built in 1911, at 99-1 Brattle St. This two-level structure is approximately 6,300 square feet.
  • Burnham Hall, a three-story former dormitory and refectory of just under 10,000 square feet, at 99-2 Brattle St. It was built in 1879.
  • Reed Hall, an 1873-vintage, 8,700-square-foot structure that originally housed a library and recitation rooms in its two floors at 99-3 Brattle St.
  • 4 Berkeley St., a 9,800-square-foot, Victorian-style structure built around 1851. It is of frame clapboard construction over a fieldstone foundation and has a gabled roof, reaching 2½ stories in height.
  • The remainder of Sherrill Library at 89 Brattle St., constructed in 1965, a striking, limestone-veneer, 52,000-square-foot building that houses the bulk of the university’s collection, as well as classrooms, lecture halls and offices. Since 2008, Lesley and EDS had jointly owned this three-story building with a lower level as part of the schools’ condominium agreement.

“Lesley University has a long and rich history,” said university Board of Trustees Chair Hans D. Strauch. “It is our intention that this be another significant moment in our history — one that allows us to continue to engage and expand our innovative and transformative work in service of our students, our communities and society at large.”

A comprehensive campus plan will be developed to support the university’s 10-year strategic vision and will guide a phased approach to planning for the university’s entire Cambridge campus. These buildings, along with the two on Phillips Place and the campus grounds Lesley already owns, are in the Cambridge Historic District and feature eye-catching architecture and abundant green space.

“We are thrilled to have worked so collaboratively with our longtime partner, the Episcopal Divinity School, on the purchase of the remainder of the Brattle Campus,” university President Jeff A. Weiss said. “As we consider our current needs and plans for the future, I am excited about what this will enable us to do for our students, faculty, staff and alumni. Our plan is to make this campus a vibrant and integral part of Lesley’s community of teaching, learning, research and practice.”

The purchase is a long-term investment in Lesley’s future that will enable the university to execute its vision in the years to come. It marks the largest investment in the Brattle neighborhood since 2008, when Lesley and the Episcopal Divinity School entered a condominium agreement of joint ownership of the Brattle Campus grounds, and Lesley’s ownership of half of Sherrill Library and seven buildings: Kidder House, Lawrence Hall, 101 Brattle St., Rousmaniere House, Washburn Hall, Winthrop Hall and Buildings & Grounds at 1 Hastings Ave. At that time, Lesley also purchased two Victorian-era buildings at 3 and 5 Phillips Place.

The completion of Lesley’s ownership of the entire Brattle Campus is the first major capital expenditure since the university completed and opened the Lunder Arts Center at 1801 Massachusetts Ave. in 2015, creating a nexus for the arts in Cambridge’s Porter Square.