Harkness Tower, constructed between 1917 and 1921 as part of the Memorial Quadrangle donated to Yale by Anna M. Harkness in honor of her recently deceased son, Charles William Harkness, Yale class of 1883, was designed by James Gamble Rogers, who designed many of Yale's "Collegiate Gothic" structures. It was, when built, the only couronne ("crown") tower in English Perpendicular Gothic style that had been constructed in the modern era. Rogers said his design for the tower was inspired by "Boston Stump," a 15th-century tower of the parish church (of St Botolph) in Boston, England notable as the tallest parish church tower in all of England. Rogers also based some details on the tower of Saint Giles church in Wrexham, Wales, where Elihu Yale is buried.
From the street level to the roof there are 284 steps. Harkness Tower rises 216 feet (66 m) tall--one foot for each year since Yale's founding at the time it was built--with a square base rising in stages to a double stone crown on an octagonal base, dissolving at the top in a spray of stone pinnacles. It was built of separate stone blocks in the authentic manner. Yale tour guides like to perpetuate the myth that the Tower was once the tallest free-standing stone structure in the world, but needed to be reinforced because its eccentric architect poured acid down the walls to make the tower look older. The Washington Monument, however, has held that distinction in the U.S. since it was completed, 37 years before Harkness Tower was built.
The tower contains the 54-bell Yale Memorial Carillon, a transposing instrument (the C bell sounds a concert B). Ten bells were installed in 1922, and the instrument was augmented by the addition of 44 bells in 1966, necessitated the aforementioned reinforcements. The carillion is played by the student-run Yale Guild of Carillonneurs, and selected guest carillonneurs for two half-hour sessions per day during the academic year (the evening session is a full hour on Saturdays); in summer it is played only in the evening, with a Summer Series of regularly scheduled concerts on Fridays.
Midway to the top, four openwork copper clockfaces tell the hours. The bells of the carillon are located behind the clockfaces, fixed to a frame made of steel I-beams. The playing console of the carillon is at the level of the balconies immediately below the faces. Lower levels of the tower house an extant water tank, two practice carillons, office space for the Yale University Guild of Carillonneurs, and a memorial chapel.
decorative elements were sculpted by Lee Lawrie A Yale professor from 1908-1918. The lowest level of sculpture depicts Yale's Eight Worthies: Elihu Yale, Jonathan Edwards, Nathan Hale, Noah Webster, James Fenimore Cooper, John C. Calhoun, Samuel F. B. Morse, and Eli Whitney. The second level of sculpture depicts Phidias, Homer, Aristotle, and Euclid. The next level of sculpture consists of allegorical figures depicting Medicine, Business, Law, the Church, Courage and Effort, War and Peace, Generosity and Order, Justice and Truth, Life and Progress, and Death and Freedom. The gargoyles on the top level depict Yale's students at war and in study (a pen-wielding writer, a proficient athlete, a tea-drinking socialite, and a diligent scholar), along with masks of Homer, Virgil, Dante, and Shakespeare.