Skip to Main Content

Digital Exhibits: The Millikan monolith to rise

The Millikan monolith to rise

Foundations works for the Millikan Library.

The almost completed building.

The Throop Memorial Garden in front of the newly built Millikan Memorial Library.

Though Caltech’s original master plan included a central library, it would be 45 years before it could become a reality, thanks to a generous gift of $2.5 million in 1959 from trustee Dr. Seeley G. Mudd. And finally, on March 30, 1965 then President Lee A. DuBridge approached the city of Pasadena to request a height variance to construct what would become the 9-story Robert A. Millikan Memorial Library, to be built, as DuBridge stated, “in the original place designated for it since the entire campus plan has always been built around this proposed library site.” The groundbreaking took place on May 26, 1965, and construction soon followed.

The design by the architectural firm Flewelling and Moody called for the north and south elevations to be faced with precast window wall panels of white concrete based on the architects’ drawings and developed by the sculptor Malcolm Leland, while the east and west elevations would be faced with South African black granite fabricated in Carrara, Italy. The arrangement of the library by floors would be as follows: 1st, rare book room, information and reception desks; 2nd, library administration; 3rd, 4th, and 5th, humanities and social sciences; 6th, engineering; 7th, mathematics and physics; 8th, chemistry; 9th, biology; and the archives in the basement.

The building was dedicated on June 9, 1967, at which time Dr. DuBridge proclaimed: “The edifice symbolizes in a striking way the towering stature of the late Dr. Millikan in the history of science and development of the Institute.”

By the 1970s, a Throop Memorial Garden would be landscaped where Throop Hall once stood. —LK

Note: On November 8, 2021, the building was renamed Caltech Hall. Read the story.