Wheaton College Norton, Massachusetts
Wheaton College
Making It Modern


Seminary Buildings

President's House. Unidentified Photographer. Photograph. 12 x 17.3 cm. N.D.Walker Evans, Main Street Entrance to College, 1940. © Copyright Walker Evans Archive, The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Located directly across the street from the majority of campus buildings, the President’s house is one of the best examples of Federalist architecture in the local area. Built in 1829 as a wedding present for Eliza Baylies Chapin Wheaton, it was cherished by her and expanded several times during her lifetime. Upon her death in 1905, when the house was left to the seminary, the Trustees voted to make it the residence of the President.

-Meghan Quigley, Class of 2011


The Sem. Walker Evans. Photograph. 17 x 12.5 cm. 1940-1941. © Copyright Walker Evans Archive, The Metropolitan Museum of Art.Seminary Hall, or “The Sem,“ is the original classroom building on Wheaton’s campus. Built in 1834, it served as the seminary’s only academic facility until the construction of New Seminary Hall (now Mary Lyon Hall) in 1849. Over the years, the structure has been a chameleon: changing appearance, location, and purpose. It has been used as a straw-hat factory, meeting hall, tenement, laundry, gymnasium, post office, infirmary, bookstore, and dormitory. The Sem’s size reflects Wheaton's small-scale origins and family-oriented values. This photograph shows the building in its current location on Howard Street, where it is used for faculty and staff housing.

-Mollie Denhard, Class of 2010

Unidentified Artist. Hand-colored Engraving. 10 x 18 cm. 1840.Unidentified Artist. Hand Colored Engraving. 13 x 22 cm. 1850.Aerial Map of Norton, MA. G.H. Bailey & Co. Lith. & Pub. Boston. Paper, ink. 1891.

When Judge Laban Wheaton’s daughter Eliza Wheaton Strong passed away, he and his wife Fanny Morey wished to honor her in a meaningful way. Their daughter-in-law Eliza Baylies Chapin Wheaton persuaded them to establish an institution for the higher education of women. In mid-1834, Judge Wheaton began planning for a female seminary. The original campus, as illustrated in the 1840 engraving displayed in this exhibition, consisted of only a few buildings including a boarding house and Seminary Hall. The entire institution was basically an extension of the Wheaton family farm. All campus buildings lined Norton’s main street and their sole purpose was the education of women. Furthering the emphasis on women, the Seminary’s administrators and teachers were all women, and Mrs. Wheaton financially backed the institution.

The 1850 engraving shows the development of the campus during the 1840s.The Boarding House (first two buildings on right) has been expanded. A Greek Revival style gymnasium, third building from the right, was constructed in 1844. Its addition created an indoor facility dedicated to the physical education of women. This building is believed to be the first of its kind on any college campus in the United States. Fourth from the right is New Seminary Hall (now Mary Lyon Hall), constructed in 1849. Its Greek Revival style complemented that of the gymnasium.

This aerial view of the Town of Norton places Wheaton Female Seminary at the center of the map, surrounded by images of key local businesses, including numerous factories and mills. The seminary thus holds a place of honor among thriving industrial enterprises, few vestiges of which are still extant.

-Leah Niederstadt/Zephorene Stickney

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