BENNINGTON — Bennington College has received two honors, including being named to the National Register of Historic Places, for its preservation of architecture and landscape.
Although certain individual buildings are already on the National Register, this new recognition is for the entire campus, including 53 of the 63 buildings that comprise the college. It also honors the history of the landscape, which was initially farmland.
“It gives a level of recognition to the quality of the campus that hopefully will make folks who wouldn’t ordinarily engage in the campus come here and explore it,” said Vice President for Facilities Management and Planning Andrew Schlatter. He worked for a year with a team to secure the National Register recognition. He noted that historic walking tours are available for the public.
“It also cements the value of the physical aspects of the campus for our internal community too,” he added. “It’s a point of pride.”
In addition, the Vermont Chapter of the American Institute of Architects awarded Centerline Architects of Bennington with a Merit Award in the Historic Preservation, Adaptive Reuse, and Rehabilitation category for The Barn at Bennington College. That award reflects the design to rebuild a portion of The Barn that burned in 2019.
The AIA Vermont noted that the exterior reflects the original agricultural appearance of The Barn, but the interior was redone into a 21st-century academic office building. Schlatter said The Barn was initially just that — a farm barn for livestock — but was one of the first buildings to be converted after the college bought the property, reflecting the old and new.
“It really is a through-line,” Schlatter said.
“Bennington College’s historical architecture, brilliant restorations, and new buildings reflect Bennington’s history of design and creativity,” said Bennington College President Laura Walker in a release. “We are delighted with both these honors, because they acknowledge our drive to embrace our history and look to the future.”
The campus is home to the 1785 Shingle Cottage, the stone Jennings Estate, Colonial Revival houses, and mid-century modernist structures.
“The unique and striking beauty of Bennington’s campus arises from the dynamic interaction between our diverse and remarkable architecture, the landscape that grounds and inspires them, and the community that inhabits them,” said Schlatter in a statement. “It is our privilege to preserve these buildings, even as we adapt their uses to meet the ever-changing needs of the present day.”
He worked with Paula Sagerman, a historic preservation consultant, and Vermont Division of Historic Preservation (VDHP) State Architectural Historian Devin Colman to secure the National Register recognition. The nomination work was funded in part by a Certified Local Government Grant from VDHP, which Bennington College applied for jointly with the town of Bennington.
Schlatter said much of the year-long work was spent researching every building, going through archives, sifting through historical documents, photographing buildings and facades, and exploring the history of the land before it was purchased by the college. That includes its 19th-century use as small farms, its conversion in the late 19th- and early 20th-century as an estate, and it’s shift to become a college in the 1930s.
The college was founded in 1932 as a women’s liberal arts college designed to “dissolve the formal barriers between curriculum and co-curricular life and between faculty and students,” the school said in a release. The first buildings constructed specifically for the college were the central Commons building and 12 student houses surrounding Commons Lawn.
At the same time, the existing agricultural structures and the Jennings Estate buildings were adapted for use by the college while retaining their original character. Beginning in 1959, with the Edward Clark Crossett Library designed by Pietro Belluschi, “campus development has been characterized by modern, strongly geometric architecture situated on the land in a less formal arrangement. These newer buildings, while making an architectural statement in their own right, provide contrast and counterpoint to the vernacular buildings of the ‘farm’ era and the colonial revival structures of the early college.” For more information on the college, visit https://www.bennington.edu/.
Schlatter said the National Register recognition honors Bennington College’s commitment to preserving the historic and incorporating the more modern.
“That really tells the story, the fact that it is being recognized that way,” he said. “The campus is really a unique collection of architecture.”