Council of Independent Colleges Historic Campus Architecture Project


Sweet Hall

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Institution Name: Wheaton College (MA)
Original/Historic Place Name: Gymnasium
Location on Campus: E. Main St. (at Trinitarian Congregational Church)
Date(s) of Construction and Designer(s):
1844original construction Wheaton, Laban Morey
1869remodeled Unknown
1882renovation Earle, Steven C.
1963moved to present position, according to the design of F. Frederick Bruck of Cambridge, an associate of the famous architect Walter Gropius Bruck, F. Frederick
Type of Place: Individual building
Style(s): (Glossary)
Foundation: granite (original location); poured cement (current)
Walls: clapboard
Roof: shingle
1844-1869gymnasium (also used for political rallies and other student activites)
1882-1963other (vestry of Trinitarian Congregational Church, Norton)
1963-present (2007)chapel (with meeting room; also used as choir rehearsal hall)

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

Originally located between the north wing of Seminary Hall (Mary Lyon Hall) and Old Metcalf Hall, it is believed that this small building was the first freestanding gymnasium built at any college in the U.S. According to Helmreich, the founding family's decision to construct a freestanding building "for the sole purpose of providing an indoor gymnasium" for Wheaton students "is particularly intriguing, for it appears that no other educational institution in the United States, male or female, had undertaken such a step prior to Wheaton's doing so." Outdoor gymnasiums or the use of classrooms or corridors was not uncommon at other institutions. The trustees did not discuss this building, which was supervised by Laban Morey Wheaton, but, also according to Helmreich, its construction symbolized the leadership's "commitment to physical conditioning and athletic activity for women that has characterized Wheaton" since its founding.

Originally, the Gymnasium's front facade included a four-column portico topped by a pediment, and a tall narrow cupola with a bell. In 1869 the Gymnasium was remodeled into the Seminary Library. When Eliza Baylies Wheaton offered to make additions to Seminary (Mary Lyon) Hall in 1878, she asked for the small building in return. She donated it to the Trinitarian Congregational Church for its vestry. It appears that the building lost its cupola during this first move down East Main Street. In 1882, Mrs. Wheaton funded the Church's renovation by architect Stephen C. Earle. At first, the vestry was attached to the rear of the Church, facing south. The building was moved to its present position at the southern end of the Church's current horseshoe shape in 1963, according to the design of F. Frederick Bruck of Cambridge, an associate of the famous architect Walter Gropius. During this renovation, the dormers or clerestory windows were removed. Bruck's plan created a connecting link of classrooms and meeting rooms with varied roof heights between the Church and Sweet Hall. He was persuaded to do the work by the late Wheaton Professor of Philosophy Holcombe Austin. The building is now called Sweet Hall.

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.

"Glimpses of Life at Wheaton." The Rushlight 28, no. 2 (June 1883): 7-8.

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

Paine, Harriet. Life of Eliza Baylies Wheaton: A Chapter in the Higher Education of Women. Cambridge: Riverside Press, 1907.

"Seminary Items." The Rushlight 23, no. 3 (Spring 1878): 30.

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.

Trinitarian Congregational Church of Norton, MA Papers. Archives & Special Collections, Wheaton College, Norton, MA.

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

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