Image Collection »http://www.w3.org/1999/xhtml"> A Walking History of Middlebury / The College Campus

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The College Campus

Front Campus Walking past the Library, one follows an ascending path across the front campus toward the College's oldest buildings. At one time this portion of campus was given a more formal aspect by a fine fence and gates along Storrs Avenue and tree-lined lanes leading to the Old Stone Row at the top of the hill. Today it is an area of more picturesque informality, with groves of fine old trees and glimpses of limestone and marble buildings.

View of Front Campus looking south, ca. 1910.

View of Front Campus looking south, ca. 1910. Stewart-Swift Research Center at the Henry Sheldon Museum, Photograph Album 1970.08

Warner Hall in the early 1900s.

ABOVE Warner Hall in the early 1900s. Middlebury College Archives, A12 PF

BELOW Painter Hall, ca. 1905. Middlebury College Archives, A12 PF

Painter Hall, ca. 1905.

Warner Hall Begun at the time of the College Centennial and completed in 1901 according to the designs of York and Sawyer of New York City, this predecessor to the Science Center was the gift of alumnus Ezra J. Warner '61 of Chicago. It now houses the department of Mathematics. Faced with blue and white marble from the Columbian Marble Company of Rutland, it was an up-to-date structure—up-to-date for its high ceilings, large windows, and lecture hemicycle, and for its use of classical architectural details on an educational building (under the inspiration of the Beaux-Arts and City Beautiful movements at the turn of the century.

Painter Hall This, the oldest extant college building in Vermont, was the result of the "contest" of 1810, its actual construction dating from 1814 – 16. Originally called "West College" (as opposed to the Academy Building, or "East College"), this building is as practical and straightforward as the town and the men who furnished the $8000 for its construction. The college needed space, space for any of a variety of purposes; and since the largest, most multi-purpose structures with which the townspeople had experience were mill buildings, it is essentially a mill building that they constructed for the college. Not that this was felt to be a shortcoming in any way. The new hall was a focus for local pride. Under the supervision of trustee Rufus Wainwright, the structure was built with local (Weybridge) stone by local masons. It had multiple entries (originally without porches) and staircases giving access to thirty-six rooms with fireplaces. The regular rows of windows and multiple great chimneys give it much the appearance of structures built to house mill-workers in Massachusetts and New Hampshire. The flexibility of the building has paid off over the years. In time a library with reading room and multi-level stacks occupied part of the north end, a two-story gymnasium filled the upper floors of the south end. In 1898 Painter contained a reading room, the only lavatories on campus, a classroom, a library, and six student rooms. Today it is wholly a dormitory.

Shortly after its completion, the new building was responsible for the loss of a popular faculty member. In the fall of 1817 twenty-eight-year-old professor of Greek and Latin, Solomon M. Allen, climbed up on the roof to fix a defective chimney. Before the eyes of horrified onlookers, the scaffolding gave way. Allen slid down the roof and died when he fell to the ground.

In 1905 Kappa Delta Rho, national social fraternity, was founded in Painter Hall, a fact that is commemorated by the plaque at the south end of the building.

Old Chapel The second structure built in Old Stone Row was Old Chapel. By the 1830s the student body had grown to 160, and classroom space demands were that most of the students had to find rooms in town. Accordingly, President Bates proposed constructing a chapel and classroom building to permit the return of space in Painter Hall to dormitory use. Funds were solicited between 1832 and 1835, and President Bates sent his own ideas to Cambridge architect Laomi Baldwin, a Harvard classmate of his, for suggestions. In 1835 – 36 the structure was built at a cost of $15,000, aligned with Painter as the central unit of an envisioned threebuilding row. It was still in the mill tradition, but the mill (much like that in Frog Hollow) was turned endwise with a tower and cupola adorning its principal facade. The ground floor housed the library and mineralogy museum; the second floor, class and lecture rooms; and the third floor, a two-story-high chapel, surrounded on the fourth by faculty offices. Not an inch of space was wasted. Yet it is obvious that a refined image was also desired fox this principal structure of the institution. Greek Revival details, so suited to the nature of the college, are to be seen in the fine cast-iron railing of the outside stairs, the Doric pilasters of the tower and octagonal cupola, and the palmette of the weather vane. Besides its more general invocations of culture, Old Chapel, by virtue of its placement with relation to Painter Hall, seems an allusion to the similarly composed Connecticut Hall and Old Chapel at Middlebury's mother institution, Yale University.

As with Painter, so here, too, is a structure much altered in the course of time In 1869 the library took over the second floor, the chapel was diminished in favor of the physics department and remodelled in the Gothic Revival style. Its gallery became a reading room, assigned in 1883 to Middleburv's first coeds as the one place on campus where they could study and gather. In 1940 the entire interior was adapted for use as an administration building, and in 1996 it was totally renovated for this purpose according to designs by Moser Pilson Nelson Architects.

Starr Hall This third element of the Old Stone Row had been conceived of as early as the design and construction of Painter Hall; and in the late 1830s surplus funds from the Old Chapel project gave serious impetus to planning for yet another structure to the south. However, as a joint result of harsh disciplinary action, student revolt, and a Hell-fire-and-brimstone religious revival, the college temporarily lost students and popularity. Only by 1860 had the enrollment regained sufficient size to encourage constructing further facilities. The Old Chapel surplus was substantially supplemented by Charles and Egbert Starr, and the cornerstone laid for the new dormitory, a building very similar to Painter Hall but lent a slightly Victorian flavor by the sharply-pitched gables over the entries. In 1864 Starr Hall burned on Christmas night and was rebuilt within the old shell with further donations by the Starr brothers. However, it was to be a long time before the new structure would be utilized to its fullest. First the Civil War and then disciplinary problems reduced the student body to a low of thirty-eight by 1880. Such were the circumstances of the college when in 1885 Prof. Ezra Brainerd '64 accepted the challenge of the presidency and began to build for the institution new popularity, a liberalized curriculum, an expanded endowment, and new facilities.

Starr Hall, ca. 1910. Old Chapel, ca. 1910.

LEFT Starr Hall, ca. 1910. Stewart-Swift Research Center at the Henry Sheldon Museum, Photograph Album 1970.08

RIGHT Old Chapel, ca. 1910. Stewart-Swift Research Center at the Henry Sheldon Museum, Photograph Album 1970.08

Starr Library, ca. 1910. Starr Library reading room, ca. 1910.

ABOVE Starr Library, exterior and reading room, ca. 1910. Stewart-Swift Research Center at the Henry Sheldon Museum, Photograph Album 1970.08

Starr Library Extended three times (by York and Sawyer, 1927; Shepley, Bulfinch, Richardson and Abbott, 1959 – 62; and Tully Associates, 1978 – 79), by the 1990s the library was in need of major reworking and expansion yet again. From many viewpoints—coherence of organization, accessibility, technological adaptability—the building did not lend itself to the needs of a contemporary multi-media library facility. It was determined to replace Starr as the college's library and to adapt the historic building for other academic uses. The Boston architectural firm of Childs Bertman Tseckares was commissioned in 2004 to remove the 1970s stack addition (Meredith Wing), restore the historic shell and original reading and Abernethy rooms, and expand the building with a south-facing winter garden, office wings, classroom, screening, and video production facilities to accommodate the Axinn Center for Literary and Cultural Studies, named for donor Donald Everett Axinn '51.

Emma Willard House The house across South Main Street at the end of the library walk was built for Dr. John and Emma (Hart) Willard in 1811 and was the site of her female seminary from 1814 – 1819. Of brick with marble lintels over doors and windows, it originally had nine rooms. The wing to the southwest and the Greek Revival details of the interior are the additions by later private owners. In 1959 the College acquired the house and adapted it for use as an admissions office, ultimately adding the single-story wing to the north. In 1966 it was declared a national historic site.

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