Skip to main content

The University Takes Shape

Early on in the development of the university, Gleason Archer settled in Boston's Beacon Hill neighborhood. By 1919 Suffolk Law School had outgrown a series of early homes in the neighborhood. Archer purchased land at the corner of Derne and Temple streets and built a new classroom and administrative building in 1920, complete with an attached theater for large evening classes. The cornerstone was laid by future president Calvin Coolidge. From the 1920s until the mid-1940s, the rooftop featured an enormous electric sign that advertised the Law School, then, after 1934, “Suffolk University.” Two floors were added in 1937 to accommodate the newly created University. The C. Walsh Theater has hosted student productions since 1936.

The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences – later renamed the College of Arts and Sciences – was founded in 1934 in response to the recommended standard that law students possess a college degree and because Archer wanted to create “a great evening university” that working people could afford.Three years later, in 1937, the College of Business Administration – now the Sawyer Business School – was established.

The three academic units were incorporated as Suffolk University in 1937. In ensuing years, the University began to offer a complete range of full- and part-time programs and an increasingly active campus community.

In later years, Suffolk's footprint in Beacon Hill enlarged with the addition of the Fenton, Donahue, Sawyer, and Ridgeway buildings to accommodate the growing University.