In Focus: Dartmouth’s architecture has a rich, complex history
By Jessica Spradling, The Dartmouth Staff
Published on Tuesday, January 14, 2003
Freshmen in the River Cluster looking out of their windows may have trouble visualizing an authentic replica of a Greek amphitheater just outside their homes, but such an ampitheater was just one of many of Dartmouth's architectural brainchildren that never left the drawing board.
In preparation for their 50th reunion, the Class of 1954 hired students from the Class of 2004 to comb the files at Rauner Rare Books Library and find out what life at Dartmouth was like in 1954, 1904, 1854, etc. The Class of 1954 wanted to know what Hanover looked like in these years, how expensive shopping was downtown, where students ate, what the traditions were and, most importantly, what campus looked like.
What architectural marvels and oddities existed or nearly existed in the history of Dartmouth was the focus of a study done by Christopher Ryan '04. Ryan, who himself has been a faithful patron of Rauner Library's study space since Winter term of his freshman year, was approached by the librarians at Rauner and asked to spend an off term researching the architecture of Dartmouth past.
While the Green has been at the center of Dartmouth since its founding, the original Dartmouth campus was composed solely of the so-called Dartmouth Row buildings: Wentworth, Thornton, Reed, and Dartmouth Halls
Wentworth, which now houses offices including the Dean of the Faculty's office and Off-Campus Programs office, and Thornton, which is now home to the religion and philosophy departments, were residential halls before the beginning of the 20th century.
Dartmouth Hall was a multi-purpose building that emcompassed all of the functions of the College in its early history -- it at one time served simultaneously as a dormitory, chapel and classroom building. In 1904, Dartmouth Hall burned to the ground but was quickly rebuilt, and the building that stands now is almost identical to the original.
In the area where South Fayerweather dormitory and Wilson Hall, which is home to several foreign language departments, are now located, once stood the monstrous Culver Hall, which housed the entire Dartmouth scientific community. Culver Hall was demolished in the 1920s in order to give each division of the sciences its own building.
Moving across the Green counter-clockwise, in the area that is now the lawn in front of Baker-Berry Library once stood Butterfield Hall. Butterfield Hall housed the class room space for the now-defunct departments of Archaeology and Paleontology, as well as Dartmouth's very own archaeology museum, which until the mid-1920s included a nearly completed dinosaur skeleton.
Almost in the same location that is now Rauner Library was Webster Hall, which was an auditorium used by visiting performance groups before the Hopkins Center was completed. According to Ryan, Webster Hall was a combination of, "Spaulding and Leede Arena." Webster existed on campus until the early 1990s when it was torn down to build Rauner.
Also in the space where Sanborn, Rauner and Baker Libraries are now, stood private faculty residences and the original College Church, which is now the Church of Christ and has been transplanted onto College Street
Across North Main Street now stands Parkhurst Hall, an administration building, McNutt Hall, home to the admissions office, Collis Center, Robinson Hall and Thayer Dining Hall. Most of these buildings were built around the turn of the 20th century, though they all had very different functions in the College's earlier days.
McNutt was originally called College Hall and served as a dormitory. Collis Cafe was a smoking lounge, and the benches that adorn the windows overlooking West Wheelock Street extended all the way around the room. Collis Commonground was a dining hall for freshmen.
In the area where Parkhurst now is stood Chandler Hall, which looked much more like a typical residential-style house. It was home to Moor's Charity School, the school originally founded by Eleazar Wheelock for the education of Native Americans.
Across Wheelock Street, where the Hopkins Performing Arts Center is now, was once the location of Bissell Hall, the campus gymnasium. Bissell Hall was demolished in the 1950s to make way for the then very controversial Hopkins Center.
Though the Hopkins Center ended up with its unique, modern style, it was originally planned to blend better with the style of the other buildings that adorn the Green. It was to be in the style of a Victorian concert hall, complete with big satin curtains.
Some form of inn has existed on the corner of Wheelock Street and Main Street for nearly the entire life span of the college, though throughout its history it has had names other than the Hanover Inn, such as The Dartmouth Hotel.