Council of Independent Colleges Historic Campus Architecture Project


College Mall

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Institution Name: College of Wooster
Original/Historic Place Name: North/South Academic Axis
Location on Campus: University St. and College Ave.
Date(s) of Construction and Designer(s):
1900Frick Hall (west half) Unknown
1902Kauke, Severance, Scovel Halls Holden, Lanson E.
1906Holden Hall, Frick Hall (eastern section) Unknown
1911-1912Severance Gymnasium Unknown
1968McGaw Chapel, Mateer Hall Unknown
1997Severance Hall addition Unknown
2002Morgan Hall Unknown
Type of Place: Building group
Style(s) of majority of buildings: Other: Collegiate Gothic
Style(s) of minority of buildings: Greek revival, Contemporary
Building group type: Quadrangle
Relationship to landscape:
Stretching from Pine Street on the south to Ebert Art Center on the north, the College Mall is divided into three basic parts: the section south of the main brick cross path, the section north of this cross path to Kauke Hall, and the northern part including the historic Oak Grove and Severance Gymnasium, now the Ebert Art Center. The character of each section differs, yet the Mall is a unit, marked by a central axis, harmonious buildings, dominant trees, and sensitive foundation planting. Of the three sections, the southern is the most coherent and self-contained. Its four buildings—Morgan, Mateer, Scovel, and Severance Halls--create an architectural enclosure within which the brick paths and tress exist in formal relationships to one another. Though the terrain undulates and planted beds undermine symmetry, these four academic buildings, despite differences in age and style, complement one another in size, shape, color, and to a lesser degree, material. Two lines of mature oaks complement the size and mass of the buildings and create a visual corridor leading to the central entrance of Kauke Hall. Ironically, it was only when the block of College Avenue between Pine and University Streets was closed to traffic in 2002 that all of these elements came fully together. The east-west brick path which in 2002 eliminated the vehicular traffic on University is the dividing line between the lower third and the middle third of the Mall. The area north of this walkway is defined by three buildings--McGaw Chapel (1968), Kauke Hall (1902), and Frick Hall (1900, 1906). Here the Mall seems less symmetrical and more porous, particularly to the east where the vistas open. Only Kauke is designed in the Collegiate Gothic style. Originally two lines of American elms flanked the central path leading to Kauke, but in the early 1970s, those fell victims to Dutch elm disease and were replaced with magnolia acuminata. Today, the magnolias have been removed in turn to make room from a major renovation of Kauke, and a new, disease-resistant strain of elms will be planted on the Mall next year. Despite the symmetry, openness, and meandering brick paths of the Oak Grove, the north-south axis of the Mall prevails. This central brick path in the Grove links the open tunnel of Kauke with the central bay of Severance, a three-story, collegiate Gothic building balanced by identical wings on the east and west. The Mall, conceived in 1902, ends at this point. Along its uninterrupted, unbent path is architecture dedicated to the wonder of the natural world, the life of the mind and the spirit, and the life of the body, all essential for the liberally-educated citizen.
Ideas associated with building group:
Careful placement of like buildings along a central axis reflected late 19th century educational thinking. Just as students who received Wooster diplomas in those years were expected to be familiar with a number of related disciplines, the buildings in which these disciplines were taught would also be aesthetically linked and logically placed. Each of these structures would be independent yet part of a larger conception. Built of vitrified gray-yellow brick in the Collegiate Gothic style, these large, well-built, rational halls were characterized by symmetry and subdued formality. The buildings on the College Mall were designed with central bays containing arched entrances and decorative terra cotta trim. The recessed double doors were made of thick wood with prominent, decorative hinges. Windows were included under hoodmolds in groups of two, three, or four. On either side of the central bay the numbers of these groups were equal. Mullions and transoms of terra cotta divide the windows. To obscure gabled or hipped roofs, the buildings rely on capped parapets, stepped gables, or crenallation. These initial post-fire decisions influenced subsequent building, resulting in a campus in which the architecture is surprisingly uniform. Most of the later campus buildings have been built in gray-yellow or light tan brick and stone. Ornamental detailing has been limited. Walls appear to be relatively thin, their surfaces broken frequently by ample fenestration. Through the decades the architecture of the College of Wooster has expressed a bright optimism.
ca. 1902-present (2007)master plan (campus)

Significance: architecture, culture, education, engineering, history
Landmark designation:
National RegisterCollege of Wooster (1980)
Narrative: see below
References: see below

This space has been the academic heart of the campus, the symbol of Wooster's rebirth in 1902 and of its vitality a century later. In the early hours of December 11, 1901, a fire destroyed Old Main, the principal building of the young College of Wooster. A few hours later the president of the college, Louis Edward Holden, sent telegrams to notable individuals, among the Andrew Carnegie, stating, "Yesterday I was president of a college. Today I am president of a hole in the ground.

The disaster was the catalyst for a remarkable rebuilding campaign which began immediately. Within a year, the new campus had been planned and four major buildings completed. Ambitious and carried out with confidence, this plan was formal and its buildings executed in a uniform style, a style which has set much of the basic design vocabulary for subsequent campus buildings.
Careful placement of like buildings along a central axis reflected late-19th century educational thinking. Just as students who received Wooster diplomas in these years were expected to be familiar with a selected number of related disciplines, the buildings in which these disciplines were taught would also be aesthetically linked and logically placed. Each of these structures would be independent yet a part of a larger conception. The principal author of the plan for the new Wooster was architect Lansing E. Holden of New York, the president's brother. He was also the designer of many of the post-fire buildings, among them Kauke, Severance, and Scovel halls (1902), Kenarden Lodge (1911), and Severance Gymnasium (1911-1912).

Through the years, the mall has been the setting for many college rituals and traditions, including lunches and receptions to welcome new students and returning alumni, commencement, class photos, and for many years, the college Christmas tree.


I. Bibliographic sources:

Notestein, Lucy Lilian. Wooster of the Middle West. New Haven: Published for the College of Wooster by Yale University Press, 1937. Reprint, Kent, OH: Kent State University Press, 1971.

Siekkinen, George, Jr. College of Wooster. National Register of Historic Places designation report. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of the Interior/National Park Service, 1980.

II. Location of other data:
Government Offices

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