Founded in 1834 by Judge Laban Wheaton, Wheaton College is a living memorial to his beloved daughter, Eliza Wheaton Strong. It was, however, the Judge’s daughter-in-law Eliza Baylies Chapin Wheaton who proposed the idea of remembering her sister-in-law with a female seminary and supported the institution until her death in 1905. Originally, the campus reflected the architectural traditions of New England, with the construction of small, domestic buildings that closely resembled other homes and farmhouses in the area. In 1897, President Samuel Valentine Cole commissioned architect Ralph Adams Cram, who later became famous, to plan a campus based on the layout of the Court of Honor at the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago. The design places buildings around an open grassy area on a north-south axis. Cole’s successor President J. Edgar Park followed Cram’s plan for the development of campus architecture, remaining true to the traditional Georgian Revival and Greek Revival styles that were already dominant on campus. Wheaton’s built environment further reinforces the idea of honor through the naming of buildings and athletic fields after individuals who played important roles in the history and development of the college.
This section of the exhibition explores Wheaton’s founding and early architectural history. To illustrate Cram’s plan for the campus, the arrangement of the objects displayed in the Weil Gallery reflected the layout of Wheaton’s Court of Honor. It was not until the late 1930s that a shift occurred in campus architecture, as seen in the next section of the exhibition, The 1938 Art Center Competition.