Council of Independent Colleges Historic Campus Architecture Project


Main drive of campus

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Institution Name: Regis College
Original/Historic Place Name: Demmon Estate Circular Drive
Location on Campus: 235 Wellesley St.
Date(s) of Construction and Designer(s):
1910-1938original construction Unknown
Type of Place: Landscape site
Type of landscape–
Other characteristics:
The general layout of the Regis College campus is an outgrowth of Mrs. Morrison's original plan for her estate; the surrounds of the mansion house, carriage house, tower and circular drive, as well as the landscaping of lawns, walls and driveway remain essentially unchanged; two massive early campus buildings, echoing the original building in material and architectural style, enhanced this arrangement and escalated the significance of the original drive. The first building, College Hall, dating from 1928-1930, was the work of T. Edward Sheehan, Architect, and John Capobianco & Co., Contractor. The second building, Cardinal O'Connell Hall dates from 1938; Architects were Maginnis & Walsh, the Contractor, Martin W. Ryan, Inc.
1938other (main drive)

Significance: architecture, culture, history
Landmark designation:
Narrative: see below
References: see below

The original drive entered the property from the left of the Mansion, circled the house, and exited to Wellesley Street. Again influenced by her experience in France, Mrs. Morrison lined this drive with 144 poplar trees that survived until the mid 1940s when they were replaced by Japanese katsura trees, known for their adaptability to New England weather. These katsura line the drive today and are specifically identified in botanical studies as excellent examples of the species. The vista from the house to Wellesley Street, approximately one-quarter of a mile, was originally a hay field. Under Morrison's supervision, it became a well-tended lawn with a variety of oversized trees in a scatter pattern. Large boulders removed from this field provided material for walls that defined the street portion of the property and divided the area fronting the house from the sweeping hillside. These walls stand today in their original natural beauty.

The first building of the new campus, College Hall, was situated at the crest of the circular drive to the right of Morrison House. Facing toward the East, the center bay of its red brick and granite eminence was lined with huge Corinthian columns. Lengthy wings spread five stories high to the south and six stories to the north, creating an imposing vista of classical elegance. This building provided offices, classrooms, a chapel, and dormitory rooms. About halfway down the exit drive, a second building, Cardinal O'Connell Hall (now identified as the Watson-Hubbard Science Center), faced south toward the mansion house. Its façade bore the familiar red brick with granite classical adornments. This building provided classrooms, offices, lecture hall, and laboratories.

With the construction of these buildings, the original exit drive became the entrance to the campus. A visitor would first pass Cardinal O'Connell Hall on the right, then move around a circle of green fronting College Hall at the peak of the drive. Its three story Parterre and two story entrance stairs, as well as its massive wings, would add immeasurably to the sense of stature. Moving left on the drive one would pass by the rear of Morrison House and circle under its Porte Cochere with the lofty Tower to the right. Descending the drive with the Coach House on the right (already enlarged to contain a library, science and classroom center), Wellesley street would become visible.

By 1938, these elements of the campus were in place. The spirit and charm of the original Morrison Estate remained, and future additions created an even more cohesive whole rather than detracting from the beauty and order of the original estate. Buildings that have been added since this period form an outer tier of the campus landscape, leaving this original central historic arrangement relatively untouched.

This historic portion of the Regis College landscape continues to reflect the earliest period of its history as well as the creative instincts of the founding family of the estate. The rolling lawn, the massive trees, and the original walls still draw enthusiastic comments. The campus drive is still lined by full blown katsura trees and dominated by the two buildings that arose within the first decade of College history. Additions to the campus, like respectful attendants, hover in the background of this enduring and endearing legacy of the past.

I. Bibliographic sources:

None specified.

II. Location of other data:
University: Special Collections

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