Wheaton College Norton, Massachusetts
Wheaton College
Making It Modern


Early Architecture

Emerson Hall before Cragin Hall. Unidentified Photographer. Photograph. 18.5 x 24 cm. 1908.Emerson Hall in the Snow. Unidentified Photographer. Photograph. 17.5 x 23.7 cm. ca. 1912.

Emerson Dining Hall and Larcom Hall were both built in 1908 to accommodate the growing student population. Emerson was entirely financed by Eliza B. Wheaton’s estate. This photograph provides a strong sense of the large expanse of undeveloped land surrounding the buildings prior to the completion of the Court of Honor. It also shows Emerson before its front porch was enclosed (ca. 1927) to provide additional seating for the growing student body.

-Andrea Bravo, Class of 2009

Science Hall (Knapton Hall). Unidentified Photographer. Photograph. 1911.Science Hall opened in 1911 during the tenure of Wheaton President Samuel Valentine Cole, and was an important component of his plan to transform the seminary into a college. Built on what used to be an apple orchard, the building was the first academic structure opened since New Seminary Hall. Its construction illustrated the college’s continued commitment to the sciences within the academic program. Science Hall projected Wheaton’s new collegiate identity, while also acknowledging its earlier history.

-George Kunhardt, Class of 2009

Cole Memorial Chapel. Unidentified Photographer. Photograph. 19.5 x 24.5 cm. 1917.Cole Memorial Chapel. Walker Evans. Photograph. 21.5 x 17.5 cm. 1940-1941. © Copyright Walker Evans Archive, The Metropolitan Museum of Art.
In the top left photograph, Cole Memorial Chapel, which was designed by Ralph Adams Cram, is shown during construction. The use of Classical columns and American Colonial brick make Cole Memorial Chapel a pure Georgian Revival building, which was Cram's preferred architectural style for Wheaton. The building’s impressive and stately tower stands one hundred sixty-five feet tall, and hosts a peacock weathervane at the top of the spire. Serving as the inspiration for the naming of Peacock Pond, the tower’s reflection is often visible on the pond's surface, as shown in the bottom photograph.

In a Court of Honor plan, a religious building often sits in the place of honor at the head of the “court.” On Wheaton's campus, however, this location was reserved for the library, marking the college's dedication first and foremost to academics. Construction of the Chapel, which centers the court’s east side, was one of President Samuel Valentine Cole’s most significant aspirations. It was named in 1926 for President Cole, a Congregational minister, one year after his death.

-Mollie Denhard, Class of 2010

Library. Unidentified Photographer. Photograph. 15 x 20.2 cm. 1923.Library. Walker Evans. Photograph. 13 x 21 cm. 1940-1941. © Copyright Walker Evans Archive, The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Before the Library was built, the college’s book collection was stored in the basement of Cole Memorial Chapel. The growing number of books and materials made evident the great need for a larger space. In 1923, Ralph Adams Cram designed the Georgian Revival style Library as the focus of his “Court of Honor,” closing the southern end of the quadrangle.

Taken before the addition of the Jackson Wing (1941) and the Periodicals Wing (1961), the photograph to the right is part of a series of Walker Evans photos commissioned in 1940-1941 for a college viewbook. The stark sky, lighting, and highlights on the architecture give the photograph a timeless feel.

-Meghan Quigley, Class of 2011

Proposed Site of Peacock Pond. Harlan P. Kelsey, Landscape Architect (Salem, MA). Blueprint. 51 x 78 cm. 3 November 1927.Peacock Pond with Chapel Reflected. Unidentified Photographer. Photograph. N.D.

The body of water named Peacock Pond was once marsh wetlands. In 1929, the marsh was excavated and transformed into a pond. This landscape blueprint, drawn on a scale of 32 feet per inch, shows a view of the marsh’s outline prior to it being dredged as a pond. Final definitions are hand-drawn in red ink and result in an overall acreage of 7 acres and water levels measuring 70+ inches in depth. East Main Street is north of the pond, and the Power House, built in 1925, is to the south. The path and footbridge are indicated as running east to west, which would have led from a wooded area to dumping grounds where Clark Hall and Chase Dining Hall now stand.

After its construction, a contest to name the pond resulted in two top choices: “Peacock Pond” or “Peacock Mirror” because the Chapel weathervane is reflected on its surface. In its early years, the pond was used for swimming, boating, and skating, and it was considered an integral part of college activities. The senior class began floating candles on the pond in 1930. First held in 1991, the annual “Head of the Peacock” boat race takes place on Peacock Pond in April. Contemporary student tradition holds that each student must swim (or be thrown) in the pond sometime before her or his graduation from Wheaton.

-Nancy Milka, Arts Faculty Assistant/Non-Traditional Student
Park Hall. Unidentified Photographer. Photograph. 24.5 x 19.5 cm. 1936-1937.Park Hall. Walker Evans Photograph. 17 x 12.5 cm. 1940-1941. © Copyright Walker Evans Archive, The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Park Hall was constructed in 1934. Designed in the Georgian Revival Style by the architectural firm of Cram and Ferguson, it originally provided not only offices for the president, deans, and other administrators, but also held a post office, bookstore, and living quarters for secretarial staff. The building was remodeled in 1965 and now serves only as an administrative building.

-Shannon Ryan, Class of 2010

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