Council of Independent Colleges Historic Campus Architecture Project

 

 
Norman Tower

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Institution Name: Regis College
Original/Historic Place Name: Norman Tower
Location on Campus: 235 Wellesley St.
Date(s) of Construction:
1911original construction Graves, Harold S.
Designer: Harold S. Graves
Type of Place: Individual building
Style: Other (Glossary)
Significance: architecture, culture, history
Narrative: see below
References: see below
Materials:
Foundation: stone
Walls: stone
Roof:
 
Function:
ca. 1911other (water tower)
ca. 1911-present (2006)other (clock tower)
ca. 1942other (U.S. Army Air Force observation post)
 

Narrative:
Regis College Tower is an historic monument in the medieval French Norman Style erected on the property in 1911 by the original owner. A decorative stone structure, it was originally built to house a water tower and a Westminster clock and to enhance the estate setting.

As part of the process of refining her estate, in 1911 Mrs. Morrison initiated the construction of the stone tower, "a copy of an old Tower in Chartres" that she had seen in her travels in France. Originally this medieval style tower served the dual purpose of water tower and clock tower, from which Westminster chimes reverberated over the countryside.

The tower has often been confused with a local monument, a similar tower erected to commemorate an early Viking landing on the nearby Charles River. Aware of the existence of this historic monument, Mrs. Morrison once wrote of her own tower, "I used to say it would stand for a thousand years and the races of the next century would have legends as to who erected it, as we now wonder about the old Norumbega tower."

Because it is one of the highest points in the town of Weston, in 1942 the tower became an observation post for the U.S. Army Air Force. Regular shifts of Weston residents manned the lookout tower twenty-four hours a day to watch for enemy airplanes. An impressive sign forbade entrance to the area by order of the United States Government. The college chaplain became an air raid warden, and air raid alarms sounded from the tower. Below the American flag, a Minute Man flag flew from the tower as a reward for the active participation of the students in the war effort. Today the edifice serves as a clock tower and chimes ring out on the hour (the music is a recording).

Through the years the tower has been kept in excellent repair. An interior circular staircase leads to the roof, which affords an expansive view of the campus and surroundings. Circles of flowering trees surround the tower, since the original pine trees gave way to the hurricane of 1938. A grotto dedicated to the Virgin Mary, built in the rear of the tower, became the yearly focus of a student May Procession and crowning of the statue of Mary.

A long gravel path runs from the front of the tower to the main drive directly opposite the entrance to Morrison House connecting these two historic structures. Through the years students have walked this path during significant college events, such as the conferral of Cap and Gown and Graduation ceremonies that take place on the broad lawn in front of the tower. Frequently and historically the Tower has served as a visual symbol of the College on letterhead or as a design motif.
 

References:

Letter from Mrs. Morrison. n.d. Archives, Regis College, Weston, MA.

 

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Last update: November 2006