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This building was named for James W. Scoville, a director of the Chicago Theological Seminary and a supporter of Carleton College. Scoville housed the college library until 1956, at which time it was remodeled to serve as classroom space and faculty offices. As of 1986, it held the media center and administrative offices.
James W. Scoville and President Strong had studied at the Chicago Theological Seminary together. Because the Chicago architectural firm of Patton and Fisher had previously designed Scoville-funded libraries at Oak Park, Illinois and Beloit College (Wisconsin), another Congregational institution, the firm was commissioned to design the Romanesque Revival structure at Carleton as well. Both Goodsell and Scoville owe much to the architecture of H. H. Richardson, whose work was the inspiration for many institutional buildings throughout the United States. Two other comparable Romanesque Revival academic buildings in Minnesota are Pillsbury Hall (1887-1989) and Nicholson Hall (1890) at the University of Minnesota. Both buildings were designed by the firm of Minneapolis architect Leroy Buffington. Scoville is on the west side of the campus, south of Willis Hall. The construction of the various science buildings is indicative of the rising importance of these areas of study in collegiate curriculums. By the late nineteenth century, the development of the library as a specialized building type to house the output of rapidly expanding knowledge was of increasing importance.