Council of Independent Colleges Historic Campus Architecture Project


State Street Lawn and Star Trees

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Institution Name: Willamette University
Original/Historic Place Name: North Lawn
Location on Campus: 900 State St.
Date(s) of Construction and Designer(s):
1867original construction Unknown
1942planting of redwood trees Unknown
Type of Place: Landscape site
Type of landscape–
Distinct topography:
Willamette University is located at the center of Salem, Oregon, on the Willamette Valley floor. The flat expanse of the lawn reflects this topography.
Views and vistas:
Small-scale features:
The Sequicentennial Rose Garden, with more than 150 plants, includes a rose that Jason Lee (one of the university's founders) gave to his wife in 1837. The lawn also includes a stand of oak trees. The sculpture, "Town and Gown," by Oregon artist, Mark Sponenburgh, is located on the north lawn between Waller and Eaton Halls.
Large-scale features:
Campus and government architecture provide distinctive boundaries of this open space. Five towering redwood trees, planted in 1942, are the major plantings on the lawn.
Other characteristics:
Archaeology students have excavated a time capsule buried near the redwood trees when they were planted originally, at the time of the university's centennial. Further east on the lawn, the students excavated a portion of the foundation of the former Kimball School of Theology.
Materials: Redwood trees, oaks, and trees of other species; garden beds; walkways; open lawn; sculpture.
1867-presentoutdoor space

Landmark designation:
Narrative: see below
References: see below

A distinctive ensemble of architecture and landscape, the State Street Lawn and Star Trees of Willamette University campus is marked on the south by a row of historic campus buildings arranged in a shallow curve from Winter Street on the west to Twelfth Street on the east. These buildings, from west to east, are the Art Building (originally the College of Medicine), Collins Science Center, Waller Hall, Eaton Hall, the University Library (now part of Smullin Hall), and Gatke Hall. The historic entrances to these buildings face State Street, a major boulevard. Across this thoroughfare to the north is the state capitol of Oregon, completed in 1938 by the New York architectural firm, Keally, Trowbridge and Livingston.

The State Street Lawn, extending from the Art Buidling to Gatke Hall, offers a combination of open space, gardens, oak trees, and a cluster of five redwood trees known as the "Star Trees." These towering trees, said to be the tallest of their kind on an American campus, were planted in 1942 by students on the occasion of the university's centennial celebration. The ensemble of campus architecture, lawns, plantings, the major boulevard, and the state capitol (described as classic art moderne and clad in white Vermont marble) creates a striking environment that symbolically embraces political, civic, and educational life in Oregon. Willamette University alumni, who as students traversed this environment and made names for themsleves in American politics include Mark Hatfield, Robert Packwood, Norma Paulus, and others.

I. Bibliographic sources:

Gatke, Robert Moulton. Chronicles of Willamette, the Pioneer University of the West. Portland, OR: Binfords and Mort, 1943.

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

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Last update: November 2006