Council of Independent Colleges Historic Campus Architecture Project


Tau Zeta Epsilon

Click on image titles for larger views.
Institution Name: Wellesley College
Original/Historic Place Name: Tau Zeta Epsilon
Location on Campus:
Date(s) of Construction:
1929original construction Raymond, Eleanor Perrin, Helen Baxter Parsons, Esther Shurtleff, Arthur
Designer: Eleanor Raymond ('09), Helen Baxter Perrin ('23) and Esther Parsons ('23). Before being built the plans and site were reviewed by Arthur Shurtleff, consulting landscape architect.
Type of Place: Individual building
Style: Regionalist/Vernacular, Other (Glossary)
Significance: architecture, education
Narrative: see below
References: see below
Walls: brick
Roof: polychromatic slate shingles
ca. 1929-present (2006)Greek letter society (literary society)

This English cottage, reminiscent of the Cotswald tradition, has a unique and varied roof of multiple elevations. Although the house can be viewed as four blocks or units, the roof integrates the units by sweeping from one elevation to another without angular breaks, unifying the building. From the slightly elevated roadway approaching the house, the roof produces a dramatic impression, and its polychromatic slate shingles contrast nicely with the brick exterior walls to create the charming effect of the Tau Zeta Epsilon Society House.

On the south elevation, facing the lake, there is a single, two-story projecting hipped-roof gable tower with a recessed entrance door on the first level, second story casement windows with splayed brick keystones, and a corbelled cornice resembling modillion blocks. The southerly elevation of the east wing has a steeply pitched slate roof and four paired casement windows with vertical-board shutters and iron hardware set into the long, low brick wall. There is a tall end-chimney on the east end of the house.

The north elevation is the rear of the building and retains the same massing and similar fenestration as the south side. The long low east end, which is one large reception room in the interior, has four sets of French doors reminiscent of the casement windows, a projecting square bay on the east end, and a remodeled terrace. There is also a projecting hipped-roof one story section corresponding to the main entrance tower on the Lake side. On the west side of the house is a one-story one-bay block with a wide, tall chimney.

The Society Houses at Wellesley College are important for the light they shed on the extra-curricular life at the college and the interest of furthering the academics beyond the classroom. Founded in 1889 as the Art Society of Wellesley College, Tau Zeta Epsilon is one of six societies established in the late nineteenth century. Societies were formed to provide an informal setting in which to pursue certain academic interests and also served as social centers for the selected members. This Society was established to further the study of arts in a scholarly fashion. From 1900 the Society held yearly studio shows exhibiting student art work.

The site of the society house was approved and plans were developed by three Wellesley College graduates, all of whom were members of the Society: Eleanor Raymond ('09), Helen Baxter Perrin ('23) and Esther Parsons ('23). Before being built, the plans and site were reviewed by Arthur Shurtleff, consulting landscape architect.


Fergusson, Peter, James F. O'Gorman, and John Rhodes. The Landscape & Architecture of Wellesley College. Wellesley, MA: Wellesley College, 2000.


Contact us / About Site / About CIC
© 2006
Council of Independent Colleges
Washington, DC
All rights reserved
Last update: November 2006