Wheaton College Norton, Massachusetts
Wheaton College
College History



Presidents' House / Wheaton Homestead

Built in 1829 by Laban Morey Wheaton for his bride Eliza Baylies Chapin, the house became the College President's residence upon the death of Eliza Wheaton in 1905.

This mansion "exemplified the taste and culture of the 1800s. It is, therefore, an historical gem to both the Wheaton community and the Norton community." It "reflects a style within Neo-Classicism known as the Federal style, a post-colonial style usually dating from approximately 1780-1820. It is naturalistic progression combining the late colonial aspects of architectures with the European ideal of Neo-Classicism." (Margaret Toland, April 21, 1976)

The original three-story structure consisted of nine rooms, with an east wing containing a dining room, kitchen, pantries, and servants' quarters. A central hall, leading from the front to the back porches, contained a lovely curving center staircase and balcony.  On the first floor, the hall was flanked by double parlors, each with its own fireplace.  These rooms were opened into two large parlors in the 1950s and a new dining room was configured. The second floor contained four bedrooms. The third floor, reached by a staircase from a dressing room, was a single large room surrounded by windows. Two presidents, Dr. Cole and Dr. Park, used this room as a study, and Mrs. Elsie Prentice, wife of President Prentice, had her textile studio in the brightly lit space.

Additional bedrooms and bathrooms, a middle hall and staircase were added in the 1870s, and the servants' quarters were relocated. The carriage house was apparently built subsequent to the original house, connected to the east wing by upstairs and downstairs passageways. The porches on the north, west and south sides of the house, leading to Mrs. Wheaton's gardens and arboretum, are original. The cellar held a water cistern, and a nearby cold room for dairy products was used for the production and sale of butter. Before its renovation in the 2000s, the house had three staircases plus one in the carriage house, more than eighty windows, twenty-three closets, and six entrances.

When the house was renovated in 2004-2007, its design was completely reconfigured.  The wing connecting the main house to the carriage house was demolished, and a basement kitchen and elevator were installed. The central hall, staircase and balcony were removed and the first floor opened into one large space.  A new rear wing contains private quarters for President Crutcher and his family.  The upstairs now has three bedrooms and a master suite, and access to the third floor has been removed. During the renovations, the president lived in a house the college purchased at 5 Country Club Way in Norton.

The house was placed to accommodate thirteen elm trees, some of which can be seen in the accompanying photographs. It is believed that Judge Wheaton strongly influenced the construction of the house, including providing much of the funding. It is the site of several long-standing traditions, including the President's Garden Parties at the beginning and end of each academic year, and Senior Class and First Year Seminar dinners with the President. These traditions began with the Graduation teas given by Mrs. Wheaton, at which she presented each senior with a posy of flowers from her own garden.  Later, on her 80th birthday, the senior class began the tradition of Founders' Day by bringing roses to Mrs. Wheaton.

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