Council of Independent Colleges Historic Campus Architecture Project

 

 
Le Chateau

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Institution Name: Middlebury College
Original/Historic Place Name: Le Chateau
Location on Campus: Chateau Quadrangle
Date(s) of Construction:
1924-1925original construction Mills, James Layng
Designer: James Layng Mills (New York)
Type of Place: Individual building
Style: Other (Glossary)
Significance: architecture, education
Narrative: see below
References: see below
Materials:
Foundation: stuccoed masonry
Walls: stucco with brick quoins and chains
Roof: slate
 
Function:
1925-present (2006)residence hall (originally the French language dormitory)
ca. 2004-present (2006)academic department building (French)
 

Narrative:
Although its setting has changed over the years, Le Chateau remains internally and externally much as it was when built in the 1920s. At the time, it existed at the extreme northern edge of the campus, axially related to McCullough Hall to the south but set apart near the site of what had been envisioned as a formal oval French garden. The garden never developed, and the north campus grew up around it; but the placement of the building generated a north-south quadrangle in the 1950s and 60s with Le Cheteau at the head. The interiors retain their mix of residential, instructional, and office spaces. The Grand Salon and the Bibliotheque retain their 18th century French decorative character.

Le Chateau was built in 1924-1925 to house what is purportedly the first maison française in America. Middlebury's intensive summer language programs began with German in 1915, followed in 1916 by French and then other languages. In keeping with their philosophy of total immersion, with lapses into English forbidden under penalty of expulsion, the language schools sought to isolate their students--German for a while taking over facilities in the nearby hill village of Bristol, and the French taking over a rooming house in town in 1919 as their first French language residential and dining facility. In 1924-1925 a gift from a former student, Frederica Holden Proctor, made possible the construction of a building on campus that would provide housing, a dining hall, classrooms, a library, social spaces, faculty offices, and a director's apartment for the French program. Architect James Layng Mills appropriately developed a design based on the Pavilion Henri IV at Fontainbleau, a symmetrical structure with steep roofs and dormers, twin polygonal entry towers, stucco, and brick chains and quoins. Sited at the north end of the one vista that binds the north with the south campus, Le Chateau exists as one of the college's most distinctive and beloved architectural landmarks as well as testimony to an important Middlebury educational innovation.
 

References:

Andres, Glenn M. A Walking History of Middlebury. Middlebury, VT: Henry Sheldon Museum, 1975.

Bain, David Haward. The College on the Hill. Middlebury, VT: Middlebury College Press, 1999.

Freeman, Stephen. The Middlebury College Foreign Language Schools. Middlebury, VT: Middlebury College Press, 1975.

Johnson, Curtis, B., ed. The Historic Architecture of Addison County. Montpelier, VT: Vermont Division for Historic Preservation, 1992.

, W. Storrs. Father Went to College. New York: Hastings House, 1936.

Stameshkin, David. The Strength of the Hills: Middlebury College, 1915-1990. Hanover, NH: University Press of New England, 1997.

Stameshkin, David. The Town's College: Middlebury College, 1800-1915. Middlebury, VT: Middlebury College Press, 1985.

Wallace Floyd Design Group. Middlebury College Master Plan. [Boston, MA: Wallace Floyd Design Group], 2000.

 

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