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This space has been the academic heart of the campus, the symbol of Wooster's rebirth in 1902 and of its vitality a century later. In the early hours of December 11, 1901, a fire destroyed Old Main, the principal building of the young College of Wooster. A few hours later the president of the college, Louis Edward Holden, sent telegrams to notable individuals, among the Andrew Carnegie, stating, "Yesterday I was president of a college. Today I am president of a hole in the ground.
The disaster was the catalyst for a remarkable rebuilding campaign which began immediately. Within a year, the new campus had been planned and four major buildings completed. Ambitious and carried out with confidence, this plan was formal and its buildings executed in a uniform style, a style which has set much of the basic design vocabulary for subsequent campus buildings.
Careful placement of like buildings along a central axis reflected late-19th century educational thinking. Just as students who received Wooster diplomas in these years were expected to be familiar with a selected number of related disciplines, the buildings in which these disciplines were taught would also be aesthetically linked and logically placed. Each of these structures would be independent yet a part of a larger conception. The principal author of the plan for the new Wooster was architect Lansing E. Holden of New York, the president's brother. He was also the designer of many of the post-fire buildings, among them Kauke, Severance, and Scovel halls (1902), Kenarden Lodge (1911), and Severance Gymnasium (1911-1912).
Through the years, the mall has been the setting for many college rituals and traditions, including lunches and receptions to welcome new students and returning alumni, commencement, class photos, and for many years, the college Christmas tree.
Notestein, Lucy Lilian. Wooster of the Middle West. New Haven: Published for the College of Wooster by Yale University Press, 1937. Reprint, Kent, OH: Kent State University Press, 1971.
Siekkinen, George, Jr. College of Wooster. National Register of Historic Places designation report. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of the Interior/National Park Service, 1980.