Council of Independent Colleges Historic Campus Architecture Project


Madeleine Clark Wallace Library

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Institution Name: Wheaton College (MA)
Original/Historic Place Name: Wheaton College Library
Location on Campus: Upper Campus
Date(s) of Construction:
1922original construction Cram, Ralph Adams
1941addition of Henry Clay Jackson wing Hornbostel & Bennett
1961addition of periodicals wing Rich, Howard L.
1979-1980addition of stair tower, stacks Mitchell, Mark for Gourley, Richmond & Mitchell
Designer: Ralph Adams Cram; Hornbostel & Bennett (New York); Howard L. Rich; Mark Mitchell for Gourley, Richmond & Mitchell (Cambridge, MA)
Type of Place: Individual building
Style: Beaux-Arts classicism, Modern/pre-WWII, Modern/post-WWII (Glossary)
Significance: architecture, culture, education
Narrative: see below
References: see below
Foundation: poured concrete
Walls: brick
Roof: rubber
1922-present (2006)library

Wheaton's library began in a room in Old Metcalf Hall, was moved to the gymnasium building in 1869, and to a specially designed room in Mary Lyon Hall in 1879. The library continued to grow until it was removed to the Chapel basement in 1918-19, where it remained until the current building opened in 1923.

Ralph Adams Cram designed the original 1922 T-shaped building. The Library was dedicated at Commencement in June 1923. Its Classical façade included granite steps, a columned front portico with center and side doors, and a small balcony over the front door to accommodate the then traditional classical plays performed by the senior class on Class Day. The college motto, "That They May Have Life, and Have It Abundantly" is carved near the cornice. For many years, a senior class step wash preceded the announcement of the May Queen from the library steps. Only seniors are permitted to sit on the library steps. The senior steps remain the focus for step singing on Sentimental Night and the start of the senior hoop roll. The senior class picture, and class pictures at reunions are taken on the library steps.

The classical theme was carried throughout the original interior, with a three-floor atrium with classical capitals and decorations on the square columns and a glass skylight. The reference department was on the main floor, and stacks in an alcove system filled the balconies and the basement. An art gallery with classical pilasters and a skylight were reached via a marble staircase from the lobby. In 1933, the science library was moved from the overcrowded library to a large room in the basement of the Science Hall (Knapton). The Henry Clay Jackson Wing, added to the west side of the Library in 1941 (formally opened in January 1942), was designed by Caleb Hornbostel and Richard M. Bennett of New York, in a simple modern style. It included a pine-paneled browsing room, new books area, periodical room, and two floors of stacks for bound periodicals. The Laila Raabe collection of early American glass was displayed in specially built vitrines in a hallway outside the browsing room, until the collection was transferred to Watson in 1982.

In 1961, when the periodicals wing designed by Howard L. Rich was added to the east side of the building, floors were placed across the atrium to create more stack space, and seating and stack space were doubled. At this time, the classical decorations were lost, except in the lobby (some part of the original decoration of the art gallery may still survive above the Clark Room's dropped ceiling), and the skylights were covered. The modern exterior is largely glass, steel and brick, reminiscent of Meneely Hall, the classroom building Rich had designed for Wheaton in 1959.

In 1979/80, Mark Mitchell of Gourley, Richmond & Mitchell of Cambridge designed an addition to the south side of library. His design restored the atrium and created a bold sky-lighted stair tower and underground stack area to join the library to the science center. An archives reading room was also created. The library was named for Madeleine Clark Wallace (Class of 1934) in 1984, when she made Wheaton College her residuary legatee on the occasion of her 50th reunion. The library's original design centered reference on the main level, and in its latest renovation in 2000, reference returned to the atrium.

The library contains many named rooms associated with individuals important to Wheaton's history. These include the Cole Room, which contains a collection of works of English literature and poetry based on the personal library of Samuel Valentine Cole, poet and president of Wheaton from 1897 to 1925. The Clark Room (formerly the art gallery), named in honor of Kate Upson Clark (Class of 1869), an author, lecturer and trustee from 1906 to 1935, was originally used for reserve reading; from 1980 to 1998 it held art periodicals, and now holds art books. In 1972, when her class had its 50th reunion, the Merrill Room was dedicated to Marian Dyer Merrill (Class of 1922), Wheaton College librarian from 1929 to 1961; this room is now the college learning center. The Greenaway Room is named for Emerson Greenaway (late director of the Philadelphia Free Library), husband of Helen Greenaway (Class of 1929) and chair of the library visiting committee from 1968 to 1984.

The Library is sometimes haunted at night. Some suggest the spirit is the continuing presence of Mary Armstrong, the head librarian from 1924 to 1929, whose fondness for her work could not be suppressed, even after suicide. "Aunt Mary" has made her presence known only to a very few late-night visitors: she has been seen emerging from the Cole Room; she used to file catalogue cards; she has shelved books; she has given a few people a "peculiar sense" that they are being watched; and she has caused unusual lighting effects at exhibition openings.

The landscaping around the library adds interest to the building. Ralph Adams Cram designed a wooden Chinese Chippendale-style bird feeder and granite bench in memory of Seminary science teacher Clara Pike (Class of 1866). This gift of the Class of 1901 was placed outside the library in 1937 and includes an endowed birdseed fund. Landscaping in front of the library, designed by W.C. Curtis of the "Garden in the Woods" in 1938, was replaced in 1946, and again in 1987. In 1941 the Rice Garden and Steps were installed on the bank between the library and the Doll's House. This wildflower garden was named for Mabel Rice, Professor of Botany from 1922-1942, and founder of the Wheaton Arboretum. In 1994, much of the Rice Garden was re-landscaped and renamed in memory of Linda Bartlett Hersey (Class of 1955).


"Additions to Wheaton College, Norton, Mass." Architectural Forum 78, no. 1 (January 1943): 81-86.

"And So Grows the Library." Wheaton College Alumnae Magazine (Winter 1979): 1-3.

Boulding, Christine, and Hope Phillips. Norton Center Historic District [including Wheaton College]. National Register of Historic Places nomination form. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of the Interior/National Park Service, 1977.

Building the Heart of the Wheaton Campus: The Liberal Arts, the Library and the Wheaton Student. Pamphlet. [Norton, MA: Wheaton College, ca. 1959].

"First Sod Turned for New Wheaton College Library." (March 1922).

Gourley Richmond and Mitchell, Architects and Planners. Plans. [s.l.: Gourley Richmond and Mitchell, Architects and Planners, ca. 1978].

Harris, Hilda. "Can This Be I? The New Library in Action." Wheaton Alumnae Quarterly 41, no. 1 (Winter 1962): 2-4.

Helmreich, Paul C. Wheaton College 1834-1957: A Massachusetts Family Affair. New York: Cornwall Books, 2002.

Mark Mitchell and Associates. Wheaton College Library Building Program. [Barnard, VT: Mark Mitchell and Associates], September 1975.

McNiff, Philip J. "Report on Wheaton College Library." [Norton, MA: Wheaton College], September 11, 1973.

Mitchell, Mark B. "Planning for Expansion at Wheaton." Library Journal (December 1, 1981): 2290-292.

Mitchell, Burditt & Associates. Progress Report to the Library Visiting Committee. [s.l.: Mitchell, Burditt & Associates], April 1975.

"The New Library." Wheaton News 1, no. 8, March 21, 1922, 1.

"New Wheaton Library Opened for Area Use." Attleboro Sun, September 16, 1961.

"Pike Memorial." Wheaton Alumnae Magazine (Aug. 1937): 18.

Rich Phinney Lang & Coté. Expansion of Library Facilities [Wheaton College]. [s.l.: Rich Phinney Lang & Cote], October 17, 1975.

Ronald Gourley & Mark Mitchell, Architects & Planners. Special Report [Wheaton College (MA)]. [Barnard, VT: Ronald Gourley & Mark Mitchell Architects & Planners], October 1976.

Shaffer, Kenneth R. The Library of Wheaton College: An Evaluative Report with Recommendations. [Norton, MA: Wheaton College], May 1959.

Shaffer, Kenneth R. A Building Program for an Addition to the Wheaton College Library. [Norton, MA: Wheaton College], May 28, 1959.

Shepard, Grace F. "Reference History of Wheaton College." Typescript. 1931. Wheaton College, Norton, MA.

Stickney, Zephorene L. Architectural History of the Wheaton College Campus: History of Land and Building Acquisition. [Norton, MA.: s.n.], 1987, rev. 2002.

Stickney, Zephorene L. "Faces behind the Facades: Campus Development & Named Buildings at Wheaton College, Norton, MA." Online (2006). Wheaton College, Norton, MA.

Stickney, Zephorene L. Wheaton Imagined, Wheaton Realized: Twentieth Century Perspectives on Planning. Norton, MA: Wheaton College, February 1988.

Stickney, Zephorene L., and Sarah C. Davidson. Of All Our Immemorial Past: 150 Years at Wheaton. Norton, MA: Watson Gallery, Wheaton College, 1985.

Wheaton College Library Celebration, Oct. 24, 1980. Pamphlet. [Norton, MA: Wheaton College, 1980].


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Last update: November 2006