1835 - 1965

Wheaton Inn

Built circa 1750, the “Mansion House,” later to become the Wheaton Inn, was purchased by Judge Laban Wheaton in 1819 for his home. Formerly located on the southeast corner of East Main Street and Taunton Avenue, the house served many purposes throughout its history.

In 1835, Judge Wheaton and his wife Fanny gave up the inn for use as a dormitory for the newly established Wheaton Female Seminary until the construction of the Boarding House.

During the mid-nineteenth century, the inn was a stop on the Underground Railroad. The student literary magazine for younger students, The Chrysalis, reported that this disturbed some of the young, bourgeois white women attending Wheaton:

The quiet of our life was… disturbed by the startling intelligence, that seven fugitives had escaped from a cotton plantation down South by means of the underground Railroad, and were enroute for Canada. Their noisy demonstrations of joy at being released from their bondage issued from the Town Hall and Mansion House. Although they styled themselves genteel darkies, it was not deemed safe for us to venture from the Seminary grounds while they remained here.”

Famous for its cinnamon butter and other goodies, the Wheaton Inn and Tea Room served the community for many years. Parents and boyfriends could rent rooms and professor of English, Curtis Dahl, the first unmarried male professor to be hired by the College, resided in the inn before his marriage. Norton’s post office and telephone exchange were, for a time, housed in a rear wing of the inn, and the carriage barns were later converted to garages.

In 1963, the building was closed to the public and used once again as a dormitory but, fearing for student safety in the entirely wooden structure, the board of trustees voted to raze the wooden structure in 1965.