Landscaping the Dorms

For a couple of reasons I’ve gotten quite a few questions this semester about campus landscaping. Some of them I could answer, others I couldn’t, but they’ve all had me carrying the problem around in the back of my mind for many weeks now. As I’ve gone about my normal business, I’ve paid attention to this and have discovered that it’s quite possible to watch methodically at least a few areas of campus evolve. The early dorms are a clear example. The original drawings for the residence halls produced by Cram Goodhue and Ferguson in 1911 seem to anticipate a fairly exotic, but still workable, landscape. 

And here’s what the same spot looked like not long after construction was completed in 1912. That’s South Hall closest to the camera and the Commons behind it. The photographer must have been standing just on the campus side of Main Street. Things could hardly look more barren:

Now here’s an image from a bit later–I’d guess roughly 1921. This is actually a slightly unusual photo because it was taken from the opposite side of Main Street. No palm trees, I’m kind of sad to say, but oak saplings and some shrubs have been planted and there is a thriving hedge:

This next image is from 1938 and it was taken from the opposite corner of the residence area. You need to zoom in on it to appreciate the beauty of the thing–it looks like a real garden, wonderfully lush and quite obviously painstakingly cared for. There’s even a small palm of some kind by the bottom left corner of the building and we may have caught a couple of the gardeners at work there just next to it:

Bonus: Just for fun, here’s the 1912 contract with Teas Nursery for planting the hedge.

Extra Bonus: I think this looks fabulous.

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1 Response to Landscaping the Dorms

  1. Wendy Kilpatrick Laubach '78 says:

    Next to the Chemistry Building, it’s the residential colleges that give me the sharpest pang of nostalgia. When I dropped off my niece at Baker a few years ago I was nearly overcome. Thanks for these great pictures.

    I’m hoping for some Chem pictures now, especially if they include my dad, Dr. John Kilpatrick. His office used to be the area at the end of the long hall on the Valhalla side, ground floor. Some time in the late 70s it was torn out to become a code-compliant stairwell.

    There used to be a glassblower in the basement of the Chem Bldg who would make any kind of obscure glass equipment anyone might need for experiments.

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