Council of Independent Colleges Historic Campus Architecture Project


Bald Spot, The

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Institution Name: Carleton College
Original/Historic Place Name: Bald Spot, The
Location on Campus: Center of Campus
Date(s) of Construction:
1905natural landscape: identified and preserved as open space
1929landscape plan Morrell & Nichols
Designer: Morrell & Nichols
Type of Place: Landscape site
Style: (Glossary)
Significance: history, landscape
Narrative: see below
References: see below
ca. 1929outdoor space (unofficial track and sports field)
ca. 1940outdoor space (skating rink)
ca. 1950outdoor space (recreational field, commencement space)

A leveled, open area at the heart of the campus, the Bald Spot has served as an important cultural and recreational center for the college throughout much of its history. Though described as a wheat field east of Willis in 1872, it acquired its present shape through deliberate planning by campus officials. The decision to build Skinner Chapel so that it faced the town of Northfield and not the campus and the Bald Spot has most clearly preserved the separate and distinct character of the open space.

The history of the modern campus plan goes back to the date when Patton, Holmes and Flinn, the successor to the Chicago firm that had designed Scoville Library, was hired to devise a unified Beaux-Arts plan. Called the "Group Plan," it was published in the college catalog between 1917-1918 and 1947-1948. Symmetrically laid out, it had a men's quadrangle at the west, a women's quadrangle at the east, a chapel and academic office building at the south, and an academic teaching building at the north. The overall stylistic inspiration was Gothic, which had enjoyed a great resurgence for college design at the end of the nineteenth century. City College in New York, the University of Chicago, and Yale University in New Haven, are notable examples. All ten buildings constructed during the Cowling era were designed by Patton Holmes and Flinn or its successor firm, Holmes and Flinn. Later in the 1960s Yamasaki developed a more open plan based loosely on the quadrangle plan. The Bald Spot is at the center of this quadrangle plan.


Carleton College Database (2006). Carleton College Facilities, Management and Planning Office. Carleton College, Northfield, MN.

Headley, Leal A., and Merrill E. Jarchow. Carleton: The First Century. Northfield, MN: Carleton College, 1966.

Jarchow, Merrill E. Carleton Moves Confidently Into Its Second Century. Northfield, MN: Carleton College, 1992.

Jarchow, Merrill E. Educator, Idealist, Humanitarian, Donald J. Cowling. Northfield, MN: Carleton College, 1974.

Jarchow, Merrill E. In Search of Fulfillment: Episodes in the Life of D. Blake Steward. St. Paul, MN: North Central Publishing Company, 1974.

Jarchow, Merrill E. Private Liberal Arts Colleges in Minnesota: Their History and Contributions. Saint Paul, MN: Historical Society, 1973.

Jarchow, Merrill E., and David H. Porter. Carleton Remembered 1909-1986. Northfield, MN: Carleton College, 1987.

Leonard, Delvan L. The History of Carleton College. Chicago: Fleming H. Revell Company, 1904.

Pearson, Marjorie, and Charlene K. Roise, Carleton College Campus: An Historical Survey. Minneapolis, MN: Hess, Roise and Company, 2001.

Soth, Lauren. Architecture at Carleton: A Brief History and Guide. Northfield, MN: Carleton College, 1987.


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