Council of Independent Colleges Historic Campus Architecture Project


Emerson Dining Hall

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Institution Name: Wheaton College (MA)
Original/Historic Place Name: Emerson Dining Hall
Location on Campus: Upper Campus
Date(s) of Construction and Designer(s):
1908original construction Ripley & Russell
1950addition Rich, Howard L.
1981renovation of faculty dining room; creation of President's dining rooms Mitchell, Mark
1984addition of carillon Unknown
Type of Place: Individual building
Style(s): (Glossary)
Foundation: poured concrete
Walls: brick
Roof: slate
1908-present (2007)dining hall
1908-present (2007)residence hall (upper floors)

Significance: architecture, culture, education
Landmark designation:
National RegisterNorton Center Historic District (1977)
Narrative: see below
References: see below

The architectural firm of Cram, Goodhue and Ferguson had been named Wheaton's supervising architects in 1907. However, Emerson Dining Hall and Larcom and Cragin Halls, the residence halls to its north and south, were designed by Ripley and Russell, and constructed in 1908 (Cragin 1911). The placement of these three Georgian Revival buildings in relation to the main axis of Cram's original campus design represents the triumph of President Samuel V. Cole and his plan to transform Wheaton into a college over the more pedestrian ideas of the board of trustees, who wanted to place the buildings directly on Howard Street. Emerson Hall was featured in Good Housekeeping Magazine as one of the most beautiful dining halls in the U.S. The three buildings are connected by pergolas that were originally open, but were roofed over by 1951.

The Dimple, a large depression in the quad just east of Emerson, was formed when a stable/barn was sold and removed in 1905. The Dimple was graded at the time of Emerson's construction although the planned reflecting pool was never built. In 1923-24, the open terrace from which spectators watched plays and May Day celebrations performed in the Dimple was roofed over and glassed in to accommodate an increasing student enrollment. An addition was built to connect Emerson with Everett Hall in 1926. Rooms over the dining hall, originally residences for domestic and dining hall staff, were used as faculty offices for some years before 1971, when they were converted to student residences.

In 1950, the faculty dining room was added at the northwest corner of the building, the kitchen and bakery enlarged, and basement rooms finished for food preparation. Howard L. Rich designed this addition. The faculty dining room was renovated in 1981, under the direction of architect Mark Mitchell, when the president's dining rooms were created. " Crum's Closet " is a former coat closet off the faculty dining room made over into a small meeting room, and officially named for Sarah Crum, the Coordinator of Campus Events from 1971 to 1987 at her retirement party. In 1984, an electric carillon was added to Emerson, with a gift from Madeleine Clark Wallace (Class of 1934). The keyboard is in the faculty lounge, and the speakers are in the cupola.

For many years, unannounced weddings and engagements were revealed at the senior class banquet in Emerson. At a given signal, engaged girls ran around the table, those married were obliged to get under the table, and those who were unengaged received a lemon to be eaten after the banquet. Emerson has been the site for Halloween celebrations since it opened in 1908. Until the faculty dining room was built in 1950, unmarried female faculty had been obliged to eat with the students, at assigned tables. Emerson is still the site of dances, special collations such as the annual Women's Day luncheon, the annual jazz concert, class banquets, and the senior White Glove Brunch.

The Dining Hall was named for the Emerson family. Alfred Emerson was a trustee from 1872 to 1893 and treasurer from 1880 to 1891. His wife, Martha Vose Emerson, who trained at Ipswich Female Seminary, was principal from 1840 to 1842. During her tenure as principal, science and math were particularly strong at Wheaton: of the 52 classes taught in 1841-42, 14 were in mathematics and 9 in sciences, including astronomy, botany, chemistry, geology, and natural history (physics). Alfred Emerson's grandfather was the Rev. Joseph Emerson, a pioneer in the higher education of women, who inspired Mary Lyon as her teacher and friend at Byfield Academy. One of the Emerson's daughters, Frances Vose Emerson (Class of 1872), taught literature and history from 1881 to 1886, and was a trustee from 1922 to 1941 when she was voted trustee emerita. Another Emerson daughter, Annie Austin Emerson (Class of 1871), taught mathematics and English branches in 1873 and 1875-76.

I. Bibliographic sources:

Boulding, Christine, and Hope Phillips. Norton Center Historic District [including Wheaton College]. National Register of Historic Places nomination form. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of the Interior/National Park Service, 1977.

"Dedication of New Dining Hall." The Rushlight 4, no. 3 (June 1908): 3.

Helmreich, Paul C. Wheaton College 1834-1957: A Massachusetts Family Affair. New York: Cornwall Books, 2002

Shepard, Grace F. "Reference History of Wheaton College." Typescript. 1931. Wheaton College, Norton, MA.

Stickney, Zephorene L. Architectural History of the Wheaton College Campus: History of Land and Building Acquisition. [Norton, MA.: s.n.], 1987, rev. 2002.

Stickney, Zephorene L. "Faces behind the Facades: Campus Development & Named Buildings at Wheaton College, Norton, MA." Online (2006). Wheaton College, Norton, MA.

Stickney, Zephorene L. Wheaton Imagined, Wheaton Realized: Twentieth Century Perspectives on Planning. Norton, MA: Wheaton College, February 1988.

Stickney, Zephorene L., and Sandra C. Davidson. Of All Our Immemorial Past: 150 Years at Wheaton. Norton, MA: Watson Gallery, Wheaton College, 1985.

II. Location of other data:
University: Library, Special Collections, Facilities Management Office
Government Offices

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