Council of Independent Colleges Historic Campus Architecture Project


Old Stone Row: Painter Hall, Old Chapel, Starr Hall

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Institution Name: Middlebury College
Original/Historic Place Name: Old Stone Row: Painter Hall, West College, Old Chapel, Starr Hall
Location on Campus: front quadrangle
Date(s) of Construction and Designer(s):
1810original design of building group Unknown
1814-1816original construction; Painter Hall Unknown
1835-1836original construction; Old Chapel Parsons, Asahel
1860original construction; Starr Hall Hill, Calvin Lamb, James
1865rebuilt; Painter Hall Unknown
Type of Place: Building group
Style(s) of majority of buildings: Other: stone mill-type structures with Federal and Greek revival details
Style(s) of minority of buildings: not applicable
Building group type: Other: conceived as a self-contained campus (though now only a modest portion of the current campus); set on a ridge overlooking Middlebury Village, on the model of Yale's Old Brick Row overlooking the New Haven Green.
Relationship to landscape:
Located on a ridge west of and overlooking the village of Middlebury, separated from the village by a grove; originally viewed from a green extended from the village core and historically (until things became more built up) from the original stage coach entry to the village (now U.S. Route 7 south) about a mile away; has views both to the village and to the Green Mountains beyond.
Ideas associated with building group:
Middlebury was founded with the advice of President Timothy Dwight of Yale and had a Yale alumnus as its first president. When it came time to build a campus, the model chosen was that of Yale. Old Stone Row exists as one of the best preserved and most literal copies of the Yale Row. The Yale association was significant for its Congregational orthodoxy, with which Middlebury identified (though it was not a church-affiliated school), in contrast to its Unitarian rival, the University of Vermont.
ca. 1816gymnasium (Painter Hall)
ca. 1816library (Painter Hall)
1816-present (2007)residence halls

Significance: architecture, history, landscape
Landmark designation:
National RegisterOld Stone Row (1997)
Narrative: see below
References: see below

While interiors and functions have been altered over time and windows have been updated, Old Stone Row exists as one of purest and most intact examples of the historic Yale campus prototype, importantly retaining its original sense of grouping and setting. As such, it was entered onto the National Register of Historic Places in 1999 and was featured on a US Postal Service postcard stamp in 2000.

Chartered in 1800, Middlebury was founded with the advice of Yale President Timothy Dwight and drew upon Yale as a curricular and physical model for its first century. It rapidly outgrew shared quarters in the 1798 Addison County Grammar School building (razed in 1867) and began planning for a new campus in 1810 on a ridge west of the village. By 1811 it announced plans for what is now known as Old Stone Row, modeled on Yale's Old Brick Row. The latter had been conceived by John Trumbull in 1792 as an alternation of broadside dormitory, gable-front chapel, and broadside dormitory overlooking the New Haven Green. Under Timothy Dwight, Peter Banner extended the row with the gable-front Lyceum and the broadside Berkely Hall (1802-1804). Now demolished with the exception of Connecticut Hall, the Yale Row was a very influential prototype for early nineteenth-century campus construction.

Middlebury's version, built of local limestone, faces a picturesque grove descending toward the village. Its first component, Painter Hall (HABS), is the oldest extant collegiate building in Vermont. It was erected as a dormitory organized about three vertical entries. Although it is a conceptual descendant of Yale's Connecticut Hall (itself a reflection of dormitory organization at Oxford and Cambridge), stylistically it is closer to the mill buildings then rising in Middlebury. It was built of donated materials--mostly local limestone, but faced with a first floor of scrap marble, including a fragment of an unused tombstone as a lintel above one cellar window. The second component, Old Chapel (HABS), was built to house the combined academic, administrative, and religious activities of the college. Proposed by Laomi Baldwin of Cambridge, Massachusetts, as a broadside structure on the model of Bulfinch's University Hall (1814) at Harvard, it was ultimately built by local joiner Asahel Parsons on the model of Peter Banner's gable-front Lyceum (1802-1804) in Yale's Brick Row. The facade of its simple, mill-like mass is embellished with a central entrance tower served by a double flight of steps and crowned with an octagonal Greek Revival cupola. Starr Hall, matching Painter in massing but with shallow entry pavilions topped by steep Victorian cross gables, completed the composition a half century after it was begun.

Home for the College's first century, this iconic symmetrical grouping served as the basis for the formality of the Beaux-Arts expansion of the campus at the beginning of the 20th century.

I. Bibliographic sources:

Andres, Glenn M. A Walking History of Middlebury. Middlebury, VT: Henry Sheldon Museum, 1975.

Bain, David Haward. The College on the Hill. Middlebury, VT: Middlebury College Press, 1999.

Henry, Hugh H. Stone Row, Old [Middlebury College]. National Register of Historic Places designation report. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of the Interior/National Park Service, 1997.

Johnson, Curtis, B., ed. The Historic Architecture of Addison County. Montpelier, VT: Vermont Division for Historic Preservation, 1992.

, W. Storrs. Father Went to College. New York: Hastings House, 1936.

Chapel [Middlebury College]. Historic American Buildings Survey photograph. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of the Interior/National Park Service, n.d.

Painter Hall [Middlebury College]. Historic American Buildings Survey photograph. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of the Interior/National Park Service, n.d.

Stameshkin, David. The Strength of the Hills: Middlebury College, 1915-1990. Hanover, NH: University Press of New England, 1997.

Stameshkin, David. The Town's College: Middlebury College, 1800-1915. Middlebury, VT: Middlebury College Press, 1985.

Tolles, Bryant Franklin. "College Architecture in New England before 1860 in Printed and Sketched Views." Antiques 103 (March 1973): 502-09.

Tolles, Bryant Franklin. "College Architecture in Northern New England before 1860: A Social and Cultural History." Ph.D. dissertation, Boston University, 1970.

Wallace Floyd Design Group. Middlebury College Master Plan. [Boston, MA: Wallace Floyd Design Group], 2000.

II. Location of other data:
University: Library, Special Collections
Government Offices
Other: Henry Sheldon Museum, Middlebury, VT

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