North Campus

Crossing College Street one enters the North Campus (originally the women’s campus). Middlebury first admitted women in 1883 under President Hamlin. At first the only on-campus provision for the coeds was a reading room on the top floor of Old Chapel. Then, in 1891 the former president’s house erected by President Kitchel at College and Weybridge Streets was adapted for use as a women’s dormitory and came to be called “Battell Hall.” In 1902, a separate women’s college was chartered, and soon after taking office in 1907, President Thomas began work on accommodations for this institution. He had solicited a matching grant from D. K. Pearsons of Chicago and begun a fund drive when approached by Joseph Battell with the offer of a twelve-acre site north of College Street. President Thomas walked the site, found it wet and scrubby but with a spectacular view of the village, and then proposed to Battell one even better — the adjoining farm on the ridge to the west with views in both directions. Battell bought and donated the latter site (thirty-six acres) as well.

82 Forest Hall Originally designed by Dwight J. Baum as the corner structure of an unrealized grandiose Neo-Georgian women’s quadrangle, Forest Hall was built in 1936. Its name is derived from the fact that it was financed by a sale of a large portion of the mountain acreage left to the college in 1915 by Joseph Battell to the Federal Government for the Green Mountain National Forest.

Forest Hall around 1940. Source

83 Adirondack House West of Forest Hall is the Victorian farmhouse of Merino sheep breeder and wool dealer U. D. Twitchell that went with the farm purchased by Joseph Battell for the women’s campus. In 1909 it was remodeled with designs of Frank Lyman Austin of Burlington and extended with a long ell for use as a dormitory and women’s dining hall. The hall, presently known as Coltrane Lounge, boasts a massive Richardsonian fireplace. The building now houses a variety of College offices.

Adirondack House, also known as Twitchell House and Battell Cottage, in the 1880s. Source

84 Pearsons Hall Beyond Adirondack House and beautifully placed on the ridge that Joseph Battell bought for its views, is Pearsons Hall, the first Middlebury structure built for women. It is named for D. K. Pearsons of Chicago, who encouraged and helped fund the project. Built in 1911, it is by the same architect (W. Nicholas Albertson) and in the same marble and the same Georgian-inspired vocabulary as its contemporaries Voter and McCullough. Inside, it originally boasted accommodations for sixty-two women, with reception rooms, a suite for the Dean of Women, and basement laundry and gymnasium. The Dean, the laundry, and the gym are gone, but it still serves as a residence hall.

Pearsons Hall in 1920s. Source

85 Ross Commons Ross Commons, named for Dean of Women, Eleanor Ross (class of 1895), was the first to be completed of the College’s program to develop residential commons. Modeled on the concept of the Houses at Harvard and the Colleges at Yale, each commons was intended to combine a broad range of residential types (from first-year doubles through senior apartments) with dining, social, study, and dean’s facilities around an open green. Unlike their historic prototypes, however, these complexes could not be tightly interconnected and introverted but were to be achieved utilizing the more open texture of the campus with its sense of individual building blocks in a landscape. Ross was generated by supplementing what had long been known as the “New Dorms,” a series of residence halls built in 1969–1970 and totally rebuilt as a single connected complex in 1994–1995 — its various wings named for long-time Dean of Women, Elizabeth Baker Kelly, and trustees Egbert Hadley ’10 (a descendant of the Starrs), Fred P. Lang ’17, and Gertrude Cornish Milliken ’01 (Middlebury’s first woman trustee). To this nucleus in 2000–2002 architect Tai Soo Kim added senior housing and dining facilities to play off of the existing buildings to create a commons green that preserves and emphasizes the historic view corridor from Pearsons Hall to the Adirondacks, to define a western edge to campus construction, and to terminate the rhythm of dignified stone masses along College Street. The dormitory (LaForce Hall) utilizes a massing similar to that of Old Chapel but based on a mill-with-monitor type that is even closer to Middlebury alumnus Alexander Twilight’s Old Stone House in Brownington, Vt. It is softened, though, with a curving rather than angular roof profile, echoed in the descending curved roofs of the lower dining hall that mimic the falling contours of the hillside as it falls to the rural valley below. The dining hall and paneled lounge are dominated by the warmth of certified local woods and by stunning westward views.

86 McCardell Bicentennial Hall Janus-like, Middlebury’s new home for the sciences appropriately addressed the old Middlebury and the new at the time of the College’s Bicentennial. Looking ahead, it was located at the northwest corner of the campus in order to find space adequate for combining all of the sciences in a single structure, to serve as the northern anchor of what master planning activities had proposed as an “Academic Arc” (the clustering of major academic activities along a pedestrian corridor extending the length of the campus), and to utilize topography to minimize the evident scale of the necessarily large structure from the its campus approach. Built to the designs of Payette Associates of Boston (1996–1999), it was conceived to bring together state-of-the-art quarters for the departments of Biology, Chemistry and Biochemistry, Computer Science, Geography, Geology, Physics, and Psychology and for programs in Environmental Studies, Neuroscience, and molecular Biology and Biochemistry in a fashion that would foster maximized interaction and sharing of facilities. Thus its wings of offices and laboratories meet around a vast great hall surrounded by informal interactive study areas and giving onto major lecture rooms, the science library, and a pioneering wing of generic laboratories that can be converted to serve a variety of disciplines, including summer language study. Its systems (e.g. room occupancy sensors that control lights and a heat-recovery system for discharged air) and finishes (local, natural and recycled materials including 125,000 board feet of certified, sustainably-harvested wood from local forests, varied by species from floor to floor and corridor to corridor) were determined to serve a major college initiative for environmental responsibility.

At the same time, the building has not lost touch with the venerable traditions of the campus and of the sciences at Middlebury. Its display cases hold pieces from a noteworthy collection of historic scientific apparatus, dating back to the early days of the institution and still in the college’s possession (though several pieces, on extended loan to the Smithsonian Institution, can only be seen by a visit to Washington, D. C.). Among the apparatus in situ are telescopes dating back to the late 19th century, including that from the yacht “Mayflower,” the 1886 defender in the America’s Cup competition. Its descendants can be found in the rooftop observatory, a regular venue for public star-gazing and itself part of a lineage dating back to the college’s first observatory in the cupola of Old Chapel. Analogous to the latter, the new observatory caps the roof of its building with a formal cupola-like presence. Other references to the campus are the stone sheathing, the rhythm of individual windows, the wings proportioned and parapeted in the manner of Painter Hall, and the ventilation stacks treated to recall the chimney-studded silhouette of that oldest college building.

To the southeast of the massive structure is an appropriately monumental work of sculpture, acquired as part of the college’s program of Art in Public Places. This is “Smog,” conceived by Tony Smith in 1969 and fabricated for the college in painted aluminum in 1999–2000. Its repetitious crystalline expansion of angular forms, fascinatingly mobile when viewed from changing angles and in changing light, seems particularly suitable to a place given to the study of things like molecular and cellular structure.

87 Freeman International Center At the extreme northwest of campus is a complex built in 1970 as “Social Dining Units.” Intended to provide more intimate alternatives to the larger campus dining halls, it combined faculty offices, seminar rooms, lounges and dining rooms in three units clustered around a central kitchen. This award-winning design by Shepley, Bulfinch, Richardson and Abbott of Boston, combined contemporary forms and materials (such as the brutal, exposed concrete of the terrace) with a vocabulary that is at home in Middlebury and rural Vermont — limestone, wood, pitched slate roofs, silos and small-scale, picturesque massing.

The individual sections are named for President Cyrus Hamlin (1880–1885) during whose presidency women were admitted to Middlebury; Professor-Emeritus Reginald C. (“Doc”) Cook ’24, forty years a faculty member, long-time director of the Bread Loaf School of English, and biographer of Robert Frost; and Professor-Emeritus Stephen A. Freeman, forty-five-year faculty member and long-time director of the Summer Language Schools. In 1993 Dr. Freeman became the namesake for the entire complex as reworked, with an additional floor designed by Moser Pilon Nelson Architects, for use as Middlebury’s center for international studies.

88 Atwater Commons The second of the residential commons to be completed, Atwater (named for first college president Jeremiah Atwater) is notable for its inclusion of significant existing buildings, a complex topographical site, and environmental design into an interactive commons community.

89 Coffrin Hall This dormitory, constructed in 1986 according to the designs of Edward Larrabee Barnes, is a good example of the attitudes of the post-modern era, adapting and updating motifs derived from other campus buildings (e.g. Forest Hall and Le Château). It was built as a series of interconnected segments that can operate as autonomous units for different languages during the Middlebury Summer Language Schools. Its staggered massing let it appear smaller than its actual size, but also permitted it to follow the forms of a ledge against which it was built.

Concepts present in Coffrin Hall were important to the three new buildings constructed by Kieran Timberlake Associates of Philadelphia in 2002–2004 to serve as upperclass housing and dining facilities for Atwater Commons. The dormitories were set to follow the lines of north-south ridges, framing a green that preserves the outward vista from the Château. Their massing and rooflines take cues from Painter Hall, as does their organization into a sequence of entries. This configuration permits the creation of apartment-like suites that extend through the depth of the building to assure natural cross ventilation, assisted by ceiling fans and by ventilation shafts in the form of rooftop chimneys. The oval dining pavilion also responds to its landscape and its views. Terminating a diagonal vista into and through the commons from the direction of Pearsons Hall and straddling the walk linking the commons with the residence of its faculty heads (Nichols House on Weybridge Street), the dining hall settles into a wooded landscape and emphasizes views outward to the Green Mountains. Its green roof is planted to help it to merge into the landscape, but also for its abilities as an insulator and a controller of run-off. Such innovations are representative of the college’s ongoing initiatives in environmentally responsible design.

90 Le Château The landmark building for Atwater, establishing its “address” on the main campus, is Le Château. For long this reigned as the oldest and one of the largest “maisons françaises” (French language residence halls) in the country. Built in 1925 as a gift of Frederica Holden Proctor and according to the designs of James Layng Mills of Boston, it was inspired by the 17th century Pavilion Henri IV at the Palace of Fontainebleau in France. It was the first of Middlebury’s language dormitories, containing a library, a resident’s suite, classrooms, offices, salon, and dining room as well as student residences. In its self containment its program suggested the mix that would ultimately be created on a larger and non-Francophone scale by the commons of which it has become a component. Recast for its new role in 2004, Le Chateau still houses the Department of French, while its classrooms, salon, and residential floors serve a broader constituency as well, and its dining hall has been converted into a performance space.

The Château in 1934 during the College’s annual Winter Jubilee. Source

91 Allen Hall Completed in 1963, Allen Hall was an extension of the Château idea — divisible into four sections, each with its own study lounge and resident’s suite, with the ability to serve groups of students wishing to speak a particular language. It is named for Cecile Child Allen ’01 and constructed of slate from her home town of Fair Haven, Vt. In 2004 it was adapted for use as a first year residence hall and commons offices for Atwater Commons.

92 Wright Memorial Theatre This 400-seat theatre, completed in 1958, is named for Charles Baker Wright, Professor of Rhetoric and English Literature from 1885 to 1920. Designed by the firm of McKim, Mead and White, it serves as the College’s proscenium stage for a broad range of undergraduate, summer school, and visiting professional productions.

93 Johnson Building Designed by the firm of Shepley, Bulfinch, Richardson and Abbott and built in 1968, this handsome structure was the gift of the Christian A. Johnson Endeavor Foundation. It demonstrated that a building need not have a cupola to fit in with the Middlebury campus. The architecture is brutalist in style, with raw concrete, cement block walls, and natural wood throughout, but the scale and the limestone exterior permit it to co-exist quietly and naturally with other campus structures. Originally built to house the programs in art and music, it is now home to the disciplines of Studio Art and Architectural Studies. The studios, extending across the east side of the building on two levels, afford their occupants the striking vista of Middlebury and the surrounding mountains that first led Joseph Battell to purchase the North Campus for the College. The skylit central court and adjacent gallery are filled during the academic year with changing exhibitions of student work. Out front is a mobile (“Eccentric Variation VI”) commissioned from sculptor George Rickey in 1975.

Exterior and interior central court of the Johnson Building during the dedication ceremony in 1968. Source

94 Battell Halls Across Château quadrangle from the Johnson Building and named for the College’s great local benefactor, Joseph Battell, are the Battell Halls, dormitories built in 1950 (north and south ends) and 1955 (center).

Battell Hall in 1950 before the center wing was built. Source

95 Sunderland Language Center At the corner of College Street and the Chateau quadrangle are the Sunderland Language Center and the adjoining Charles A. Dana Auditorium (1965). The 270-seat auditorium is a favorite location for large lectures (College and public) and the many domestic and foreign films presented during the year. Sunderland’s primary role on campus is as the year-round nerve center for the most famous of Middlebury’s educational programs — the study of modern languages.

The special association of Middlebury with languages dates back to 1915, when the College instituted an intensive summer program in German, followed by French (1916), Spanish (1917), Italian (1932), Russian (1945), Chinese (1966), Japanese (1970), Arabic (1982), Portuguese (2003), and Hebrew (2008). The pioneering philosophy of the programs was and remains a total immersion in language, literature, and culture — all communication to be in the language studied and relapses into English forbidden under penalty of expulsion. To this end each language group is assigned its own living and dining facilities, and close out-of-class contact is maintained between students and faculty. Before the completion of the Château, the French School held forth for some years at the old Logan House Hotel on Park Street. The Germans were established for a time in the village of Bristol. Today the entire campus in summer is devoted to language study, with as many or more students than during the regular year.

For Middlebury juniors and for students in the graduate summer programs, the study of language extends abroad, where the C.V. Starr-Middlebury Schools Abroad maintain schools in thirty-eight cities in France, Germany, Italy, Latin America, Russia, China, Israel, Jordan, Africa, India, Japan, and Spain.

Other College facilities of likely interest to the visitor are the Center for the Arts, the athletic complex and the mountain campus, the first two accessible by foot, the latter definitely requiring a car to reach.

96 Mahaney Center for the Arts This building was constructed in 1988–1992 to the designs of Hardy, Holzman, Pfeiffer Associates. It is conceived as a collage of materials and forms — a sloping-roofed shed intersected by a great circular courtyard and penetrated by performance and museum halls, each maintaining its own identity of shape and materials within and without. Here, about a complex, multi-level lobby can be found the College’s black box theatre, a surround concert hall, a dance performance hall, the College art museum, and box office. The complex also includes classrooms, rehearsal space, and technical support for the programs in theater, dance, music, and the history of art and architecture.

Also housed at the Center for the Arts is the Middlebury College Museum of Art. The Museum was inaugurated in the Center for the Arts in 1992. Originally established in the Johnson Building in 1968 as the Christian A. Johnson Memorial Gallery, the museum now houses the permanent art collection of the College as well as the new Christian A. Johnson
Memorial Gallery, a space given by the Christian A. Johnson Endeavor Foundation for the accommodation of traveling exhibitions. The collection of some six thousand objects ranges from ancient through contemporary art and includes distinguished collections of antique pottery, 19th century European and American sculpture, Asian art, photography, and contemporary prints. Particularly noteworthy are a 5th-century B.C.E. Greek amphora by the Berlin Painter; a wax over plaster sculpture, “Bimbo Malato,” by the 19th-century Italian sculptor Medardo Rosso; and “The Moon, August 6, 1851,” a daguerreotype by John Adams Whipple. The museum is also home to the earliest work of art acquired by the College: a monumental relief of a winged guardian spirit, or genius, from the 9th-century B.C.E. palace of Ashurnasirpal II at Nimrud, now northern Iraq. The museum is open to the public free of charge throughout the year.

97 The Fieldhouses The athletic fields and fieldhouses are on South Main Street (Route 30), southwest of the Center for the Arts. Here in 1949 was built the Memorial Field House with the gifts of 5,000 alumni in memory of classmates lost in the war. Originally from an air base in Rome, New York, it was dismantled, moved by truck, and reassembled on the Middlebury site. It houses the Pepin Gymnasium and Nelson Recreation Center (the former Nelson Hockey Arena, refitted with a multi-use activities floor and climbing wall). Adjacent are a Fitness Center (1985) with panoramic windows overlooking the Green Mountains, an Olympic-sized Natatorium (1996), and the Chip Kenyon ’85 hockey arena (1999), all by Moser Pilon Nelson of Wethersfield, Conn. A squash facility designed by Architectural Resources Cambridge was completed in 2013, and the Virtue Family Field House with its indoor track was built to the designs of Sasaki Associates of Boston 2015. Beyond the fieldhouse complex are the Youngman Stadium (Moser Pilon Nelson, 1991), the 18-hole Ralph Myre Golf Course, and the lighted 3.5 km Kelly cross-country ski and jogging trail (1976). On a knoll south of the stadium entrance a bronze rendition of the Middlebury Panther (Lorenzo Ghiglieri, 1997) crouches atop a great glacial boulder. Transported to the site by the Committee on Art in Public Places to serve as an appropriate base this is purportedly the largest single piece of stone to have been moved in Vermont since the Ice Age.

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