Council of Independent Colleges Historic Campus Architecture Project


Willis Hall

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Institution Name: Carleton College
Original/Historic Place Name: Willis Hall
Location on Campus: 201 College St. North
Date(s) of Construction and Designer(s):
1868-1872original construction Alden & Howe
1879rebuilt after fire Unknown
1954addition Unknown
Type of Place: Individual building
Style(s): (Glossary)
Foundation: stone
Walls: stone
Roof: asphalt
ca. 1868residence hall (men's dormitory)
ca. 1868library
ca. 1868chapel
ca. 1868-present (2007)classrooms
1954-1979student union
ca. 2004-present (2007)academic department building (economics, education, political science, sociology, anthropology)

Significance: architecture, culture
Landmark designation:
National RegisterWillis Hall (New Hall), Carleton College (1975)
Narrative: see below
References: see below

Willis Hall was the first permanent college building on the campus. Construction began in 1868, and when it was completed in 1872, the hall was dedicated to Susan Willis of Charlestown, Massachusetts, who had cleared the building's debt. Originally, the building housed all of the functions of the college, including dormitories on the third floor, classrooms, offices, and a small chapel. It was the equivalent of the "old mains" at many college campuses. Designed by prominent Minneapolis architects Alden and Howe, Willis is in the Second Empire style, contrasting with the more prevalent Gothic Revival style favored by colleges through much of the mid-nineteenth century. Comparable prototypes would be the early buildings of Vassar College in Poughkeepsie, New York, designed in the Second Empire style by James Renwick.

The building was gutted by fire on December 23, 1879, leaving only the walls. The rebuilt structure had a larger chapel on the second floor, a new classroom for prayer and literary society meetings, and a furnace to replace the original stoves. In 1954, the addition had new stairways, an automatic freight elevator, first floor lounge and grill, a TV room, a radio broadcasting studio, post office, record library, game room, photographic darkroom, and classrooms which had been phased out as inadequate. Willis Hall served as the student union between 1954-1979.

I. Bibliographic sources:

Carleton College Database (2006). Carleton College Facilities, Management and Planning Office. Carleton College, Northfield, MN.

Headley, Leal A., and Merrill E. Jarchow. Carleton: The First Century. Northfield, MN: Carleton College, 1966.

Jarchow, Merrill E. Carleton Moves Confidently Into Its Second Century. Northfield, MN: Carleton College, 1992.

Jarchow, Merrill E. Educator, Idealist, Humanitarian, Donald J. Cowling. Northfield, MN: Carleton College, 1974.

Jarchow, Merrill E. In Search of Fulfillment: Episodes in the Life of D. Blake Steward. St. Paul, MN: North Central Publishing Company, 1974.

Jarchow, Merrill E. Private Liberal Arts Colleges in Minnesota: Their History and Contributions. Saint Paul, MN: Historical Society, 1973.

Jarchow, Merrill E, and David H. Porter. Carleton Remembered 1909-1986. Northfield, MN: Carleton College, 1987.

Leonard, Delvan L. The History of Carleton College. Chicago: Fleming H. Revell Company, 1904.

Lutz, Thomas, and Ruthmary Penick. Willis Hall (New Hall) [Carleton College]. National Register of Historic Places designation report. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of the Interior/National Park Service, 1975.

Pearson, Marjorie, and Charlene K. Roise, Carleton College Campus: An Historical Survey. Minneapolis, MN: Hess, Roise and Company, 2001.

Soth, Lauren. Architecture at Carleton: A Brief History and Guide. Northfield, MN: Carleton College, 1987.

Willis Hall [Carleton College]. Inventory report. St. Paul, MN: State Historic Preservation Office, Minnesota Historical Society, [n.d.].

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

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