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In 1866 the College of Wooster was sited on a hilltop of virgin forest populated predominately with oak trees. The beauty of this native forest was the driving force behind the choice of the site for an institution of higher learning, and harmony with the natural and constructed landscape is still central to the college's campus today. A garden of trees, ornamental plants, and bulbs greet visitors to the college, along with views of native forest, multitudes of color and scents, and a welcoming garden around every corner. The Star Magnolias seen at Luce Hall provide fragrant blooms in April to welcome spring. P. J. M. rhododendrons on the north side of Scheide Music Center provide profuse lavender blooms to greet visitors at the main entrance. The campus is also fortunate to have 105 Canadian Hemlocks. Hemlocks have a graceful sweeping branching habit, and the flexible limbs tolerate the weight of heavy winter snows in Ohio. Planted with a border of azaleas, the hemlocks combine for a colorful display of red, yellow, and pink, adding to the gracefulness of the campus. The South Mall is a wonderful addition to the campus. Cucumber Tree Magnolias and stately Pin Oaks parallel the brick walks. Giant Red Oaks and maples can be viewed from all the surrounding buildings.
The Campus Gardens have changed over the years. Since 1950, we have lost 350 large graceful elms due to Dutch Elm Disease, trees that were a significant part of the campus forest; and we have lost many White Dogwoods to borers and anthracnose. In each instance, substitutes have been found and replacements made so the net loss will be minimized. The last 50 years have seen many new buildings erected, providing the opportunity for small garden construction, adding bright colors and most pleasing scents. The need for more student parking required the loss of some trees last year, but parking site choices are also limited by an unwillingness to destroy the atmosphere that makes the College of Wooster what it is.
There are a number of small garden areas of interest on campus. One unique area is the Contemplation Site situated north of Galpin Hall among a group of very old native oak trees. In the mid 1990s, an artist was commissioned to create a sitting area among the old trees and provide students with a new awareness of the trees around them. The artist used eleven locally quarried half-ton sandstone blocks. Several messages relating to the college and the surrounding natural environment are engraved in the stones, some of which function as benches.
Another area of interest is the LC Boles memorial golf course. Originally constructed in 1935-1937, it was an open and hilly course featuring mainly grassed fairways and roughs. In 1959, Lucie Notestine, chairperson of the COW Building and Grounds committee, planted the first trees on the course. In the years following the college has planted 473 additional trees that have enhanced the beauty of the grounds. The sixty eight year old LC Boles Memorial Golf Course is open to the public and provides a recreational and teaching facility for the entire campus community. Students, faculty, and staff enjoy the brilliant red, white, and pink colors of the seventy flowering crab, the yellow leaves of the forty-nine Sunburst Locust, and the large six-inch flowers of the Kousa Dogwoods. Seventeen different tree species now line the fairways and roughs of the once stark and treeless course. Two memorial gardens grace the course landscapes, beautifully planted with hosta, daffodils, tulips, and several ornamental trees. Several memorial trees are found on the course, many located near the old- fashioned pump house that has been to many golfers a gathering spot for a cool drink.
While the construction of the buildings on the campus site has resulted in the loss of some of the original native trees, many of them are still with us and lend an atmosphere of peace and tranquility to the campus. Prospective students and their parents usually tour this campus along with other schools where the student may have applied. Repeatedly questionnaires reveal that the decision to study at Wooster is often made based on their brief exposure to the Campus Garden, its stately trees, and the atmosphere they project a decision made before they enter the first building.