Located on a bluff overlooking the Potomac River, Healy Hall is the main symbol of Georgetown University. Construction began in November 1877 and was largely finished by 1879. The building was named after Reverend Patrick Healy (1783-1882), the first African-American Jesuit and President of a major University, who undertook the massive fundraising needed for the building. He consulted a number of prominent architects, but decided to select the firm of J.L Smithmeyer and Paul Pelz.
The building, constructed of load bearing brick and grey Potomac gneiss, is located on a 90-acre site belonging to the University. The most striking part of the building is the large central spire which rises 200 feet above grade. The building was articulated in the Northern European Romanesque style, containing arches and towers typical of this stylistic revival.
Healy Hall is one of the last, large-scale High Victorian Gothic Buildings in America. “Ruskinian” or Venetian Gothic, enjoyed a good deal of success in America, especially as it was applied to churches and institutional structures. Healy Hall was built along the influence of prominent Gothic revival architects such as Richard Morris Hunt, the first American to study architecture at the Ecole des Beaux Arts in Paris. Healy Hall stands as a monument to a rich, decorative episode in American architecture.