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Wentworth Institute of Technology Buildings

A brief history of Wentworth buildings.

Collins Building

  • Built in 1899
  • Architect - Unknown
  • The Collins Building currently houses Alumni Offices and the Career Center. In the past, Collins was the home and office of President Beatty, the home of the inventor of the iron lung, and a machine and assembly shop for the Collins Corporation.
  • Wentworth acquired the Collins Building in 1965 from the Collins Corporation.
  • Building Key - Building 12

In 1966, Wentworth Institute purchased a three-story brick building on the north side of Huntington Avenue. In the years since, it has served many purposes for the Institute:Russ Beatty kept an apartment on the upper floor; the Curriculum Center called it home, as have the Alumni Office and the Career Center. But of all the work done in the building, the most famous was performed by its original owner, Warren E. Collins. He was a mechanical manufacturer who lived on the top floor and ran a machine and assembly shop on the lower floors. In 1928, he partnered with Philip Drinker, a chemical engineer and industrial hygiene professor at the Harvard School of Public Health. Drinker had developed a model for a machine to sustain the breathing of polio patients who suffered paralyzed pulmonary functions. Collins and Drinker manufactured the first of hundreds of tank respirators at 553-555 Huntington Avenue in the late 1920s. Most everyone, however, came to know the machine by its less formal name: the iron lung. In the decades before the Sabin-Salk vaccine was developed, the iron lung saved the lives of many patients afflicted by polio.

Warren E. Collins

Warren E. Collins was a mechanical manufacturer who owned the two-family house at 553-555 Huntington Avenue. The building's first and second floors and basement became machine and assembly shops. The Collins family lived on the third floor.

In the late 20's, Philip Drinker, a chemical engineer and industrial hygiene professor at the Harvard School of Public Health, developed a model for an iron lung which was fabricated by the Collins Corporation. The respirator became known as the Drinker-Collins iron lung. In 1965 the Collins Corporation sold the home to Wentworth, and the firm moved to Braintree.

The original iron lung that Collins built is displayed at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C.