Council of Independent Colleges Historic Campus Architecture Project


Upper Campus

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Institution Name: Nichols College
Original/Historic Place Name: Nichols Academy (with Town School and Congregational Church)
Location on Campus: Center Rd.
Date(s) of Construction:
1881-1893original construction Elbridge Boyden & Son Wilcox, Charles Francis
Designer: Elbridge Boyden and Son (Worcester, MA); Charles Francis Wilcox (Providence, RI)
Type of Place: Building group
Style: Romanesque revival, Gothic revival, Other (Glossary)
Significance: architecture, culture, education, history, landscape, religion
Narrative: see below
References: see below
ca. 1890other (primary buildings of Nichols Academy, town school, and Congregational Church)
ca. 2004-present (2006)other (buildings of Nichols College and Congregational Church)

The Upper Campus is part of the buildings given by Hezekiah Conant to Nichols Academy, the Town of Dudley, and the Dudley Congregational Church. Between 1880 and 1893, Conant, a former student at Nichols Academy, inventor, and industrialist, financed the construction of five buildings in the center of Dudley, Massachusetts. These buildings located on the top of Dudley Hill represent the most outstanding examples of the area's late 19th Century architecture. Three (Conant Library and Observatory, Academy Hall, and Roger Conant Hall) were built between 1880 and 1885 for Nichols Academy by Elbridge Boyden and Son from Worcester, Massachusetts. Boyden, responsible for more than fifty public buildings, had no formal education--one of the last "country" architects. The remaining two buildings (Center School and First Congregational Church--Conant Memorial) were designed in 1890 and 1892 by Charles Francis Wilcox, a noted church architect from Providence, Rhode Island. With the exception of the Church, these buildings are owned now by Nichols College. Together they combine various examples of Victorian Gothic, Romanesque, Queen Anne, and Second Empire architecture. Remarkably, they remain generally unchanged, although one was partially destroyed and rebuilt after the hurricane of 1938.

These structures represent an era in American history when society was moving from the 19th into the 20th century. This setting of buildings captures the union of an important private academy established in the early 19th century (the present Chapel, the Academy Hall, and Conant Hall), the emerging public school system of the late 19th and early 20th centuries (now represented by Currier Center), and the Pre-Revolutionary War Congregational Church--all cast in the finest architectural splendor that Hezekiah Conant could provide. Taken as a group they also represent the essence of a tightly knit 19th century New England community, which embodied an informal but important working relationship between education, religion, and the roots of a small, rural central New England community.


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Last update: November 2006