Council of Independent Colleges Historic Campus Architecture Project


Wheeler Hall

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Institution Name: Northland College
Original/Historic Place Name: Wheeler Hall
Location on Campus: 1411 Ellis Ave.
Date(s) of Construction:
1892original design
1994remodeled HGA
Designer: HGA (Minneapolis, MN)
Type of Place: Individual building
Style: Victorian (Glossary)
Narrative: see below
References: see below
Foundation: originally sandstone; reconstruction with poured concrete inner foundations
Walls: sandstone and brick
Roof: asphalt shingles
1892-present (2006)old main

Wheeler Hall is the old main on campus and embodies over a century of the college's history. There are historic photos of the campus and community in the building, and the dates of graduating classes have been carved in the sandstone foundation for most of the 100+ year history of the building. It is a landmark for the community as well as the college.

Wheeler Hall makes up one "wall" of the quadrangle "room" of the inner mall. The inner "Mall" area is a classic quadrangle with the outer reaches of the campus grouped in a free-flowing arrangement.

From National Register report:
Initially organized as North Wisconsin Academy, the school was conceived and constructed as a result of efforts of philanthropists and educators of Congregational persuasion from Wisconsin and Minnesota. The idea was first proposed at a conference at Pratt (now Grandview) in 1891. Subsequently, on May 9, 1892, the bid of Ashland, which included twenty acres "in the most eligible and picturesque part of the city," and a subscription of $30,000, was accepted.

The building, which was dedicated in June of 1893 and completed in time for the opening of the fall term that year, was in many respects a copy of Beloit College's Scoville Hall. In addition to this architectural borrowing, the new academy received Beloit's assistance in various other ways. Indeed, a Deloit professor, A.W. Burr, was invited to be the first president of North Wisconsin Academy, but he excused himself, indicating that the climate might prove too much for Mrs. Burr. Thus that responsibility fell to the Reverend Edward P. Wheeler, one of the founders of the institution and minister of the local Congregational church. The building was named for Mr. Wheeler in 1907, one year after the academy had become a college.

Wheeler Hall is not only the Old Main of Northland College; it is also the recognized landmark of higher education throughout a large portion of the North Country. Important among the responsibilities of the Academy as recognized by its founders was its area of service, which was to include "northern Wisconsin and Michigan and North Eastern Minnesota... in which there is not a single high grade high school." This regional mission has continued to be emphasized. As Northland's president, M.J. Fenenga, observed more than seventy years ago. "It is significant that this school was not named for a denomination or a man or a city, but for a region."


Wisconsin Historical Society. Wheeler Hall, Northland College. National Register of Historic Places designation report. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of the Interior/National Park Service, 1977.


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Last update: November 2006