Council of Independent Colleges Historic Campus Architecture Project

 

 
Hebe Court

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Institution Name: Wheaton College (MA)
Original/Historic Place Name: Hebe Court
Location on Campus: Upper Campus
Date(s) of Construction:
1933original construction Cram & Ferguson
Designer: Cram and Ferguson
Type of Place: Landscape site
Style: (Glossary)
Significance: architecture, culture, education, landscape
Narrative: see below
References: see below
Function:
1933-present (2006)outdoor space
 

Narrative:
Eliza Baylies Chapin Wheaton, one of the founders of Wheaton Female Seminary, gave a statue and fountain of Hebe, the Greek cupbearer to the gods, to the seminary in 1884 to mark its fiftieth anniversary. The statue was a lead copy of the original by Bertel Thorwaldsen (1768-1884, Danish), and featured a fountain rising from the cup. The statue reminded the students of the seminary's motto "She who drinks will thirst for more." Representing the spirit of service, Hebe was placed just east of Seminary Hall (now Mary Lyon Hall) and soon became the focus of student traditions, including being the finish line for the senior class hoop roll, and the final resting place for the daisy chain seniors carried during Class Day activities. Later, water jets were added to the pool at the statue's base.

When the original dormitory, Old Metcalf, was replaced in 1932-33 with the Georgian Revival complex of Metcalf and Kilham Halls and Hebe Parlors, the statue-fountain was moved to the resulting courtyard and became its main feature. At one time, a reflecting pool was installed at Hebe's feet, but this feature did not last long. Hebe is still the goal of the Senior Hoop Roll; traditionally the winner will be the first class member to be married. Those already married are supposed to race with a baby carriage! Alumnae tell of another kind of race to Hebe: their dates dashing to Hebe after evening events such as dances or concerts in hopes of claiming a parlor before anyone else; other couples would not invade their privacy.

Hebe was the favorite target of pranksters from men's colleges, especially Brown University. Poor Hebe was literally ripped off her feet more than once! She was abducted so often that at one time an alarm was installed within the statue to alert students and staff of her theft. The original statue was hollow lead, with a solid cup and pitcher, the weight of which also caused damage over time. She was stored in the potato cellar in the 1970s. In 1982, sculptor and Wheaton parent and spouse Fritz Cleary of Interlaken, N.J. replaced the original with a bronze recasting from the original pieces. In preparation for Hebe's re-casting, Wheaton staff held an Irish wake for the original statue, placing her in a casket, wearing mourning, and singing Irish tunes.

Hebe Parlors originally contained one large and twelve small parlors, in which students could entertain their guests. The parlors connected through arched doorways with Metcalf and Kilham Halls, and were named to commemorate dates and people important to Wheaton Seminary and halls in Old Metcalf: Laban, 1835, Seventh Heaven, Tragedy, Comedy, Seminary, Eliza, 1933, Purgatory, Paradise, Broadway, and Boarding House. In 1947 Hebe was remodeled into three small faculty apartments, and during the 1980s into offices. In 1989/90, a small apartment was created for a "Quad Resident."
 

References:

"And So, Back to Parnassus." Niké Yearbook (1948): 93.

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.

Cutler, Annie. "A Maiden from Olympus." The Rushlight 29, no. 3 (June 1884): 1-5.

"From the Campus: The Reincarnation of Hebe." Wheaton Alumnae Quarterly 46, no. 3 (Summer 1967): 6-7.

"Hebe." Wheaton Alumnae Quarterly (August 1941): 20.

"'Hebe' Damaged Beyond Repair." Wheaton College Bulletin. Newsletter issue. (March 1955).

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

"Items." The Rushlight 29, no. 3 (June 1884): 1-5.

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. http://www2.wheatonma.edu/Archives/Histories/FBF/FBFHome.html

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

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

Wright, Carol. "Finger of Suspicion Points at M. I. T. After Attempted Kidnapping of Hebe." Norton (MA) Wheaton News, February 14, 1942.

 

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