Wheaton Inn / Mansion House
Built in circa 1750, Judge Laban Wheaton, founder of Wheaton Female Seminary, purchased the house in 1819 for his home. Formerly located on the southeast corner of Routes 123 and 140, the house was used as an inn (the "Mansion House") by the 1830s, and was called the "Wheaton Inn" in the 20th century. It was razed in 1965.
The Wheaton Inn served many purposes throughout its history. In 1835, Judge Wheaton and his wife Fanny gave up the inn for use as a dormitory for the newly established Wheaton Female Seminary, which did not have a boarding house at its inception. During the mid-19th century, the Inn was one of the many stops on the "underground railroad". The student literary magazine for younger students, The Chrysalis, reported that
The quiet of our life was ... disturbed by the startling intelligence, that seven fugitives had escaped from a cotton plantation down South by means of the underground Railroad, and were enroute for Canada. Their noisy demonstrations of joy at being released from their bondage issued from the Town Hall and Mansion House. Although they styled themselves genteel darkies, it was not deemed safe for us to venture from the Seminary grounds while they remained here.
Mrs. Eliza Baylies Chapin Wheaton, and after her death, Wheaton Seminary and Wheaton College, found it difficult to hire and keep suitable innkeepers (who would not serve liquor). Norton's post office and telephone exchange were in a rear wing, and the carriage barns were later converted to car barns. In 1963 the building was closed to the public and used as a college dormitory. Fearing for student safety in the entirely wooden structure, the Wheaton College Board of Trustees voted to raze the wooden structure in 1965.
"Every alumna remembers the Inn, but few know it's real history. It was formerly known as the Mansion House, the home of Judge Laban Wheaton who held his court in the small addition in the rear which is now used as a serving room. At the opening of the seminary, Judge and Madam Wheaton gave up their home to the teachers and most of the scholars until the east wing of Metcalf Hall was built. During these years the Inn has undergone many repairs and changes, but the greatest one was in 1929 when it was thoroughly renovated." (Wheaton Alumnae Quarterly, September 1944, page 12.)
Famous for its cinnamon butter and other goodies, the Wheaton Inn and Tea Room served the community for many years. Parents and boyfriends could rent rooms, and Professor of English Curtis Dahl, the first unmarried male professor to be hired by the College, resided in the Inn before his marriage. The dining rooms featured themes, such as the Oriental Room, shown in the accompanying photo.