Other Archaeological Sites at and Around Carleton

At the beginning of this project, each of us researched sites of historical and archeological interest on Carleton’s campus and in the surrounding areas. While we had to eventually focus on Pine Hill Village, like the 2015 class did with the Women’s League Cabin, many interesting and promising sites were also proposed. Here are some of the sites that people researched and what we could potentially learn if these sites were chosen for some archeological exploration.

The Ames Mill

Nothing encapsulates Northfield’s river town character like Ames Mill. According to classmate Kirsten Walters’ research, Ames Mill was built in 1856 on the banks of the Cannon River. The mill was designed to use hydropower from the Cannon to grind wheat and produce flour. Ames Mill was first owned by John North, founder and namesake of Northfield, and was later sold to Jesse Ames, a former sea captain, in 1865. In the same year, the railroad arrived in Northfield, which made easier transportation and commerce. In order to keep up with an increase in demand for flour––a result of the arrival of the railroad––Ames built a larger mill on the other side of the Cannon River, making the first mill obsolete.1 Over the next few years, the second Ames Mill was renovated to accommodate even more production. Additions included a 30,000 bushel elevator; a height increase of 35 feet, creating a fifth floor; and steam power.2 Ames operated the mill until his death in 1895, after which different short-term owners––most notably, cereal brand Malt-O-Meal––used the mill until 2015.3 Northfield would not have its long-standing reputation for cereal-scented air without Ames Mill.


The Carleton Farm

In the town of cows, colleges, and contentment, cows and Carleton College once operated hand-in-hand. Classmate Clarissa Smith found that the Carleton Farm dates back to 1914 and provided milk, meat, employment, and experiential education opportunities for several decades. In the 1920s, the College built an on-site residence––now known as Farm House––for farm workers. But the farm did not run like butter, as the idiom goes. According to The Carletonian, the farm’s barn was destroyed in a 1926 fire, thought to have been caused by “defective wiring.”1 Adjusted for inflation, the $40,000 damage at the time would translate to almost $550,000 today.2 Fortunately, the College opened a new barn with fire protections,3 as well as a nearby water tank for further support,4 in 1928. Challenges with the farm returned in 1930 when unpasteurized milk from the farm caused a polio outbreak on campus, resulting in the deaths of two Carleton students. As a result, the farm began to send its milk to a nearby pasteurization provider before reaching the dining halls. Ultimately, the farm functioned as a laboratory, even if many of its experiments failed. Though the College hoped to use the farm as a means of work-study financial aid, and as a living classroom for agricultural biology, neither initiative worked out in the end.5 Nevertheless, the farm supplied the campus with pasteurized butter, cream, and milk through its later years,6 producing 300 gallons of milk in its heyday.7 The farm ceased operations upon auctioning off its herd of 110 Holsteins in 1964.8


Carleton Tunnels

The Carleton tunnels have achieved almost a mythic status on campus having previously been an important part of campus before it was closed indefinitely. Classmate Hiroko Sunamura originally researched this site, finding that the tunnels were actually two systems with the west side being purely functional and the east side pedestrian. The original tunnels were created to distribute heat to all of the campus buildings through steam pipes, also acting as the way to distribute water and power. By 1933 there was 2,746 feet of piping in the tunnels, which kept expanding as the campus expanded, with each new building adding to the web of tunnels.1 The east side tunnels were larger than the west side, with pedestrian use as well as functional use. The first tunnel went from Gridley Hall to Nourse Hall, later connecting to Evans Hall and Cowling Gymnasium, the women’s dorms and the women’s gymnasium. In the Carletonian in 1969 there was discussion of the restriction of access to the tunnels to only women. Men were only allowed in the tunnels between midnight and 2 am Friday and Saturday nights as the only other way to leave east campus was through Watson Hall at that hour. They also had to be accompanied by a female student. If they were caught without an escort they were subject to a peer court.2 The tunnels also reflected the times. In 1963-65 Carleton converted to emergency fallout shelters that could have housed the entire student body, faculty, staff, and their families. The project was subsidized with government funds from the National Civil Defense Program.3 The tunnels were closed indefinitely in 1988 after several instances of vandalism over the last several years, increasing in frequency. One student, having hit her head on a fixture that was vandalized, had to go to the hospital. The school made several attempts to keep the tunnels open with different anti-vandalism to no avail.4 To make the necessary repairs for safety and liability would have cost the school $278,000, not including the yearly cost of security to insure the safety of students.5 It is highly unlikely that the tunnels will every be reopened. Still, they are reflective of Carleton’s history and expansion, of students who have come and gone and left their mark on the tunnel walls.


Thorstein Veblen Farmstead

Regarded among Carleton’s most famous graduates, economist and social critic Thorstein Veblen, a graduate of the class of 1880, spent his formative years on a farmstead just several miles from the College. Classmate Ross Matican looked into the relationship between Veblen’s difficult childhood and academic worldview, which scholars attribute to his family’s Norwegian immigrant background. In particular, some historians think that the Veblen family’s agrarian values1 and barebones attempt to survive in rural Minnesota laid the foundation for Thorstein’s criticism of overconsumption in the United States.2 The Veblen family moved onto farmland near Nerstrand, Minnesota in 1866, where they built their own house and farm. The house, completed in 1870, is more traditionally American on the outside and Norwegian on the inside,3 reflecting the challenges of assimilation. Over a century later, Carleton played a role in the house’s restoration and preservation. Retired Carleton archivist Ruthmary Penick rescued the house from dereliction in the 1970s, attempted to restore it in 1982, and helped hand it over to state preservationists in 1989. Local economist William Melton bought the house and farm in a 1992 preservation easement, which required that he add to the house indoor plumbing and central heating.4 In 2005, a local flower farmer purchased the property––now known as the Thorstein Veblen Farmstead National Historic Landmark––and has since turned the farmhouse into a bed and breakfast.5 The farmstead sheds light on the life of Carleton’s most distinguished alumni, the relationship between physical surroundings and development of worldview, and Norwegian immigrant history in southern Minnesota.


Mai Fete Island 

Considered to be one of Carleton’s quirky social traditions, Mai Fete first took place before it had a namesake island in Lyman Lakes. According to classmate Eric Biddulph-West, the College created Mai Fete Island, in addition to its neighboring Stewsie Island, in the process of creating Lyman Lakes: by piling dirt from the beds of the lakes between 1916 and 1917.1 The history of the Mai Fete ceremony is central to the history of women’s social life at Carleton. What began as a spring ice cream social on the lawn of women’s dormitory Gridley Hall turned into a May festival in 1909, when female students held a beauty pageant and a Maypole dance as part of a fundraiser for the Y.W.C.A..2 Although it is unclear when the annual Mai Fete event moved from the Gridley lawn to Mai Fete Island, an archived photo of the 1921 Mai Fete shows a large audience sitting on the hill below Goodsell Observatory facing Lyman Lakes, suggesting that the event moved to the island as early as 1921. The fundraising focus of Mai Fete shifted in the 1920s when administrators recognized the need for a women’s gymnasium on campus. For over 25 years thereafter, Carleton women used Mai Fete to raise money for the proposed gymnasium, which finally came to fruition in 1965 as the Cowling Gymnasium.3 After years of erosion greatly reduced the depth of Lyman Lakes, the College’s Grounds Department restored the shoreline of Mai Fete Island in 2009. Mai Fete Island is a living example of how Carls have interacted with their environment for over a century on this campus.


Gridley Hall

Gridley Hall was first occupied in 1883, with the planning and building stages taking place in 1881 and 1882. Classmate Nicole Connell found that it was one of the first dorms for students on campus. It was built as an all women’s dorm, when the campus had housing separated by gender. In 1886 it was named after Eber Gridley, who gave $40,000 to build the structure, a figure which is over a million dollars today.1 The building, besides holding residential areas, also had a parlor and a chapel, where Dean Margaret Evans held weekly sessions.2 Electric lights were installed in 1908, and in 1912 the dorm went through major renovations. The dining room, kitchen, and maids’ rooms were relocated to the basement to free up area for living quarters, additions of shower baths, and installation of an elevator and water softener. A recreation room was also added at this time, and the building also contained a gymnasium.3 The dining hall was used by most of the women and some of the men in the early years of the college.4 In the 1930’s the dining hall was the site of a weekly all-freshman dinner and meals were served family style. Gridley also housed the Dean of Women, living in a suite in the building known as the Preceptress’ Room. Dean Evans lived here from 1882 to 1908, and the room was later converted to the Office of the Dean of Women. Male students also had restricted access to the building, limited to certain areas of the building and only during certain times of the day. In the 1940’s the parlor was an acceptable coed place and had to be cleared out by 10 pm, with a porch outside serving for “affectionate goodnights.” A student resident worked as a bell girl to alert residents when they had a male visitor and men were not allowed in the rooms.4 After growing concerns about the structural flaws of the building creating a larger risk of a fire or other issues in the near future,5 Carleton decided to demolish the building instead of making costly renovations to the building. It was occupied up the the 1966-1967 school year, and was demolished during that summer. The new Drama and Arts Center, now known as the Concert Hall, was planned to be built on top of the Gridley site, and a new dorm, the Isabella Watson Hall, was built to relocate the displaced students.6 Studying this site would give insights into the early life of the college, as well as perhaps dining practices in the college and insights into the life of female students.


Williams Hall 

Williams Hall was one of the first buildings on the Carleton campus. According to classmate’s Zayn Saifullah, Williams Hall was designed and built in 1880-1881. Originally referred to as the “Science Hall” it was later renamed Williams Hall after a donation from Dr. Edwin H. Williams of $12,000 to name the hall as a memorial to his late son William Williams.1 Building was prompted in part by the burning of Willis Hall in 1879, providing more space and more security in case of another fire.2 The building served many different academic functions, containing lecture halls, a science library, laboratories, study spaces, and a small museum.3 Over the years it hosted various science departments as well as the art department, hosting chemistry until it moved to Leighton Hall and art moved to the newly built Boliou in 1949.4 Student organizations were also housed within Williams, including the student radio station KARL, the yearbook Algol, and the Carletonian .5 In the mid-1950s, students and faculty thought that Williams was ugly and no longer suitable for use.6 The College officially decided to tear down Williams Hall in 1958,7 and finally demolished the building in October 1961.8 Studying Williams Hall would give insights into the early years of the college given its importance in Carleton’s early development.


Floodplain Forest and Prairie

Floodplain Forest and Prarie

Approximate location Credit: Noah Savage

One of the most intriguing parts of Carleton’s physical character is its ecological diversity. In his research, classmate Noah Savage points out that two radically different biomes, floodplain forest and prairie, exist relatively close to each other in the Cowling Arboretum. Noah argues that a study of human interference and subsequent plant regeneration in both of these biomes––in other words, applying an archaeological lens––would help the College make informed decisions about campus conservation efforts. Both the floodplain forest and prairie areas on campus have been used as farmland at some point in the past,1 but their contrasting physical appearances raise questions about the similarity of their agricultural usage patterns. For instance, the floodplain forest area is characterized by high tree density, whereas the prairie area is not. Past scholarship suggests that the floodplain forest was home to a Native American trail roughly 8,000 years ago2 but more can be learned about the history of the prairie. Going forward, Savage recommends a concurrent study of both biomes in order to understand the sustainability needs of the Arb as a whole.


The Old Brown Church 


The Old Brown Church between 1961 and 1880

Despite its spiritual connection to the founding of Northfield and to Carleton College, the First Congregational Church of Northfield physically lasted for less than 20 years. Classmate Elise McIlhaney found that the Old Brown Church, as it was called, was built in 1861 and destroyed by fire in 1880. During its short lifespan, though, the Old Brown Church saw the additions of three new wings in order to accommodate its growing membership. The church’s successor, the First United Church of Christ, is located one block away from the site of the Old Brown Church.1 Today, the site of the Old Brown Church would make for an interesting and viable archaeological study because we know what happened on the site and how it disappeared, allowing us to ask more pointed questions about its burned rubble––if there is any to be found, of course.


Waterford Bridge 

Waterford Bridge - 2009

Waterford Bridge 2009

The Iron, or Waterford, Bridge has been the an Arb landmark, was built in 1909 located over the Cannon River in the Northeast corner of the Arb, giving safer means to cross the river than by wading.1 According to classmate Randa Larsen, it is one of the last cast-iron bridges in Minnesota and the only surviving one that has bolted connectors. However, in 2004 there was serious discussion about replacing the bridge and the site held the first spot of the State of Minnesota’s deficient bridge list. Frequent flooding of the area was one of the reasons of concerns for the bridge and its car traffic. In an agreement between Waterford and Carleton and input from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources a new bridge was built upstream, with the Iron Bridge remaining in use until it opened in 2010. The bridge was then closed in 2011 but is still open to foot traffic.2 There has also been very interesting student events over the years, including “The Great Schiller Exchange,” the response by a student group 85 lost sheep to the announcement that then President Stephen Lewis Jr. wanted to replace the damaged Schiller bust for a new one. In an event that involved scuba divers, a getaway car, and dramatic music, Lewis gave the group the new one and they gave him the damaged one.3 The site has also been a frequent area for recreational activities in the Arb, and was at one point part of the running portion of the “Iron Person” competition at Carleton.4 As an area that is used by both Carleton students and Northfield residents, the bridge could provide insights of Arb activities over the years.



For more a extensive look of sites of archaeological and historical interest, check out the oral histories of Pine Hill Village, the history of other veteran’s villages nearby and nationally, and the historical information of Women’s League Cabin project from 2015. Also check out Carleton’s Administration and the Creation of Pine Hill Village.

References and Further Reading

The Ames Mill

1 – Bretheim, Laura

2013    Historical Perspectives on the Ames Mill: Northfield, MN. Electronic document,   

<https://exit69history.wordpress.com/2013/05/18/historical-perspectives-on-the-ames-mill-northfield-mn-by-laura-bretheim/>, accessed May 30, 2017.

2 – Northfield News [Northfield, Minnesota]

2004    Northfield’s Ames mill has a long, interesting history. 3 November. Northfield.

3 – Scriven, Hayes

2017    The Ames Mill. Electronic document,

<http://northfieldhistorical.org/items/show/20>, accessed May 30, 2017.

Hess, Stephanie

2016    Fun Finds in the NHC: Malt-O-Meal Additions. Electronic document,

<http://northfieldhistorycollaborative.org/2016/06/fun-finds-in-the-nhc-malt-o-meal-additions/>, accessed 30 May 2017.

The Carleton Farms

1 – Carletonian [Northfield, Minnesota]

1926 “College Barn Burns Causing $40,000 Loss.” 17 April. Northfield, Minnesota.

2 – Bureau of Labor Statistics

2017    CPI Inflation Calculator. Electronic document,

<https://data.bls.gov/cgi-bin/cpicalc.pl?cost1=40%2C000&year1=192603&year2=201704>, accessed May 27, 2017.

3 – Carletonian [Northfield, Minnesota]

1928 “Modern Fire Protection is Feature of New Barn.” 10 October. Northfield, Minnesota.

4 – Carletonian [Northfield, Minnesota]

1928 “Water Tank Changes Northfield’s Skyline.” 17 November. Northfield, Minnesota.

5 – Headley, Leal A., and Merrill E. Jarchow

 1966    Carleton: The First Century. Carleton College, Northfield, Minnesota. 307. 

6 – Cornell, Sherry

Carletonian [Northfield, Minnesota]    

1955 “Hobo Camp and City Dump Evolve Into College Farm.” Carletonian. 14 May. Northfield, Minnesota. 

7 – Headley, Leal A., and Merrill E. Jarchow

 1966    Carleton: The First Century. Carleton College, Northfield, Minnesota. 297. 

8 – Carleton College News Bureau

    1964    Press release announcing plans to auction all cattle. Found in Carleton College

    Archives, Northfield, Minnesota.

Carleton Tunnels

1– Carletonian [Northfield, Minnesota]

    1933 “Some 2700 Feet of Piping Carry Heat on Campus.” 11 October. Northfield, Minnesota.

2 – Carletonian [Northfield, Minnesota]

    1969 “Tunnels Open to Men on Friday, Saturday.” 6 March. Northfield, Minnesota.

3 – Hildebrandt, Sherri

1980 Tunnels provide for Carleton’s safety. Carletonian 15 February. Northfield.

4 – Kaste, Martin

1988 Safety considerations close eastside tunnels indefinitely. Carletonian 23 September. Northfield.

5 – Roemer, John

1961 College Plans Fallout Protection. Carletonian 15 November. Northfield.

Besecke, Kelly

1989 Safety concerns shut down tunnels indefinitely. Carletonian 13 January. Northfield.

Burda, Anne

1986 Vandals strike again. Carletonian 17 January. Northfield.

Carletonian [Northfield, Minnesota]

1915 “Work on Buildings is Pushed Rapidly.” 2 November. Northfield, Minnesota.

Fraker, Susan

1968 Genius Pervades the Tunnels. Carletonian 1 February. Northfield.

Morgan, Steve

1989 Costs of reopening tunnels deemed prohibitive. Carletonian 24 February. Northfield.

Weium, Karen

1980 Vandals close tunnels. Carletonian 29 February. Northfield.

Thorstein Veblen Farmstead

1 – Fredrickson, George M.

1959    Thorstein Veblen: The Last Viking. American Quarterly 11(3): 403-15.

2 – Larson, Jonathan

 2009    The Lessons from the Veblen Farm: the Origins of Thorstein Veblen’s Social Thought.

Electronic document,

<http://elegant-technology.com/kossack_veblens_importantance.html>, accessed April 9, 2017.

3 – Melton, William C.

1995    Thorstein Veblen and the Veblens. Norwegian-American Studies 34: 23-56.

4 – McDonnell, Lynda

1993    Conspicuous Restoration. Electronic document,   

<https://www.minneapolisfed.org/publications/the-region/conspicuous-restoration>, accessed April 9, 2017.

5 – Airbnb

2017    Thorstein Veblen Farm National Historic Landmark. Electronic document

<https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/1339391>, accessed April 15, 2017.

Mai Fete Island

1 – Headley, Leal A., and Merrill E. Jarchow

 1966    Carleton: The First Century. Carleton College, Northfield, Minnesota. 37. 

2 – Carleton College Media Relations

2017    Northfield Historical Society highlights Carleton’s Mai Fete. Electronic document,

 <https://apps.carleton.edu/media_relations/press_releases/?story_id=1575922>, accessed May 28, 2017.

3 – Stork, Gertrude C.

1926    The History of the Development of the MAY FETE at Carleton College. Essay on file, Carleton College Archives, Northfield, Minnesota.

4 – Stork, Harvey E.

1921    Mayfete 1921 – audience. Photograph,

<http://contentdm.carleton.edu/cdm/singleitem/collection/CCAP/id/123/rec/1>,   accessed May 28, 2017.

5 – Headley, Leal A., and Merrill E. Jarchow

 1966    Carleton: The First Century. Carleton College, Northfield, Minnesota. 424.

6 – Carlwiki contributors

2009    Lyman shoreline reconstruction. Electronic document,

 <http://www.carlwiki.org/Lyman_shoreline_reconstruction>, accessed May 28, 2017.




Gridley Hall

1 – Headley, Leal A., and Merrill E. Jarchow

 1966    Carleton: The First Century. Carleton College, Northfield, Minnesota. 42.

2 – Headley, Leal A., and Merrill E. Jarchow

 1966    Carleton: The First Century. Carleton College, Northfield, Minnesota. 138.

3 – Headley, Leal A., and Merrill E. Jarchow

1966    Carleton: The First Century. Carleton College, Northfield, Minnesota. 42.

4 – Headley, Leal A., and Merrill E. Jarchow

 1966    Carleton: The First Century. Carleton College, Northfield, Minnesota. 295. 

5 -Utzinger, Pauline

1960s    Magazine article about women’s life at Carleton. Found in Gridley Hall Topical

Files, Folder 48, Carleton College Archives, Northfield, Minnesota.

6 – Bornhoft, Arnold

1959    Letter to Bruce Pollock about fire protections of Gridley Hall, dated 5 February.

Found in Gridley Hall Topical Files, Folder 48, Carleton College Archives, Northfield, Minnesota.

7 – From Oldest to Newest: Gridley Girls Move to Isabella Watson Hall

    1967 May:2–7.

Williams Hall

1 – Headley, Leal A., and Merrill E. Jarchow

 1966    Carleton: The First Century. Carleton College, Northfield, Minnesota. 41.

2 – Carletonia [Northfield, Minnesota]

1890 “Here and Elsewhere.” 1 June. Northfield, Minnesota.

3 – Headley, Leal A., and Merrill E. Jarchow

 1966    Carleton: The First Century. Carleton College, Northfield, Minnesota. 41.

4 – Carletonian [Northfield, Minnesota]

1967 “Boliou Founder Returns With Sculpture Exhibit” 11 May. Northfield, Minnesota.

5 – Carletonian [Northfield, Minnesota]

1953 “Carleton’s Campus Grows Under Four Presidents.” 19 September. Northfield, Minnesota.

6 – Carletonian [Northfield, Minnesota]

1955 “While We Improve…” 8 October. Northfield, Minnesota.

7 – Carletonian [Northfield, Minnesota]

1958 “Bean Announces Carleton’s New $10,000,000 Program.” 24 October. Northfield, Minnesota.

8 – Bergman, Bob and John Roemer

1961 Wreckers Demolish Williams. Carletonian 25 October. Northfield.

Floodplain Forest

1 – Walker, Alex

2012    Effects of a 1970 Restoration Planting on Soil in the Cowling Lower Arboretum. Essay archived in Cowling Arboretum Collection, Northfield, Minnesota.

2 – Jensen, Paul, and Charles Umbanhowar, Jr.

1998    “The Indian Pathway Through The Carleton Arboretum.” Cowling Arboretum Collection, accessed April 5, 2017.


The Old Brown Church

1 – First United Church of Christ

2017    History. Electronic document,   

     <http://firstucc.org/about-first-ucc/history/>, accessed May 30, 2017.


Waterford/Iron Bridge

1 – Cowling Arboretum Map and Guide

2015. Carleton College, Northfield, MN.

2 – Beshoof, Sam.

2008 Carleton announces plan to replace Minnesota’s most dangerous bridge. The

Carletonian. 23 May: A3. Carleton College, Northfield, MN.

3 – Becker, Seth.

1996 Lost Sheep switch Schillers. The Carletonian. 10 May: 1, 3. Carleton College, Northfield, MN.

4 – Pacla, Jim.

1981 Athletes gear up for “Iron Person” competition. The Carletonian. 29 May: 14. Carleton College, Northfield, MN.

An Arb for All Seasons

2009 Carleton Voice. 1 September: 30.

Ecology in the Arboretum

1973 Carleton Voice. 1 April: 7.

Credits: Nicole Connell and Ross Matican