“Old Main” was the first building to be erected for the newly created Howard University. It was designed by Rochester, N.Y., architect Henry R. Searle Jr. in 1867, who also created the master plan for the university grounds.
It was a composite of styles, mainly Gothic and Second Empire. The overall impression was to convey a moralistic message. The structure had thirty-six rooms, including the offices of the president and chief administrators. Two mansard-roofed pavilions were at each end, and the main entrance was located in the center of the facade within a six-story octagonal tower. The tower rose to a height of 185 feet and contained the university bell after 1872.
“Old Main” was razed in 1940 to make way for the present main library.