Council of Independent Colleges Historic Campus Architecture Project


Campus Landscape Master Plan

Click on image titles for larger views.
Institution Name: Smith College
Original/Historic Place Name: Campus Landscape Master Plan
Location on Campus: bounded by Elm St., Green St., Kensington St., and West St.
Date(s) of Construction and Designer(s):
ca. 1871original master plan Unknown
1893landscape plan Olmsted, Frederick Law
1995subsequent landscape plan (following Olmsted) Rolland/Towers Oberlander
Type of Place: Building group
Style(s) of majority of buildings: Other: High Victorian Gothic
Style(s) of minority of buildings: Greek revival, Romanesque revival, Modern/post-WWII
Building group type: Irregular; Other: the landscape and buildings of Smith College are as old as the college itself. Before opening its doors in 1875, the college had to build two buildings: College Hall which acted as an administrative and classroom building and Gateway House, the official President’s residence. The purchase of Dewey House provided housing for the 14 original students. By the turn of the 21st century, the college master plan included over 100 residential, academic, administrative, and maintenance buildings, as well as a botanical garden. Smith college campus consists of 125 contiguous acres, plus additional real estate. Housing styles range from Colonial, Gothic Revival, and Italianate to the International style. The various architectural styles that converge on the Smith college campus are a testament to its desire to enhance “the aesthetic , educational, intellectual, and communal values of living on this campus." (Landscape Mission Statement Smith College, 19 June 1995. Rolland/Towers/Oberlander Master Landscape Plan.)
Relationship to landscape:
none specified
Ideas associated with building group:
none specified
ca. 2004-present (2007)master plan (landscape)
ca. 2004-present (2007)master plan (campus)

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

Smith College was founded in 1871 at the bequest of Sophia Smith, who wanted to support an educational institution that prepared women in studies "comparable to those now afforded to men." In this way, Smith College was different from other women's colleges, which up to that time had been based on the seminary method of teaching and residential life. Smith students were expected to pass preliminary examinations and were schooled in classical languages, natural history and philosophy, the bible, and the arts. The residential housing system is one of Smith's unique contributions to higher education. Developed around small houses with a limited number of students living in them, the Smith residential system based itself along the ties of family life: students were expected to eat their meals in a dining room at regular houses, and housemothers (often women faculty) lived within the houses and acted as the social and moral arbiter for the students. Women engaged in both intellectual and physical rigors, since it was believed that both would make a positive contribution to a student's education. The campus was structured so that the students were engaged in some type of activity throughout most of their free time. Walks were encouraged around campus, in town, and in the surrounding neighborhoods; longer trips were sponsored by the college. The campus is an integral part of a Smith College woman's experience and has been since the founding of the campus.

The first landscape master plan was created by Frederick Law Olmsted at the request of the first president of the college, L. Clark Seelye. The first master plan was to be used as a guide to the physical and botanical layout of the college. Following in the footsteps of the Olmsted plan, the modern team of Rolland/Towers created a landscape master plan in the mid-1900s, which reclaimed the best of the Olmsted plan.

I. Bibliographic sources:

Dober, Richard P. Campus Architecture: Building in the Groves of Academe. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1996.

Dober, Richard P. Campus Landscape: Functions, Forms, Features. New York: Wiley, 2000.

Lincoln, Eleanor Terry, and John Abel Pinto. This, the House We Live In: Smith College Campus from 1872-1982. Northampton, MA: Trustees of Smith College) 1983.

Rolland/Towers. Smith College Landscape Master Plan. [Rolland/Towers, New Haven, CT], 1995.

II. Location of other data:
University: Library, Special Collections, Facilities Management Office
Other: original plan/records at the Olmsted National Hist

Contact us / About Site / About CIC
© 2006
Council of Independent Colleges
One Dupont Circle, Ste. 320
Washington, DC
All rights reserved
Last update: November 2006