The Evolution of the Hill
If you want to know how the St. Olaf College campus has changed over the last 150 years, just ask current student Anders Cote ’24.
Over the last few years, Cote has dug deep into the college’s history to create a detailed story map that recounts the architectural evolution of the St. Olaf campus from its start in 1874 to the present.
The website he built features scores of photos, a wealth of information, and plenty of interactive elements. Cote compiled it all in his own free time, starting in the spring of 2021. He continues to add updates as new spaces open and buildings are updated.
Cote hasn’t received course credit for his work, and he’s not paid by an office on campus. This is a project that is driven solely by his love for the Hill. “History has always interested me — especially the history of places that I have deeper and personal connections with,” he says.
History has always interested me — especially the history of places that I have deeper and personal connections with.Anders Cote ’24
Cote started his research for this project by reading St. Olaf historian Joe Shaw’s book Dear Old Hill, which catalogs the history of every campus building from the college’s founding through the early 1990s. He gathered photos and additional information from the St. Olaf Archives, making several trips there to find what he needed. Then he used ArcGis StoryMaps, a tool he had learned in class, to build the site.
“I divided the history of the Hill into seven periods of development, from the beginning in 1874 to the present day. Each period is characterized by something different, such as the initial choice to build with limestone and not brick, or the post-war era when many buildings were built in only a couple of decades,” he says. “But overall, I would say that the biggest takeaway is that the development of the campus revolved around consistent architectural principles and responded well to urgent programmatic needs.”
Although the general style of campus buildings evolved over the years, Cote says he appreciates that new buildings have always acknowledged the campus’s history.
“The first building to use the limestone siding was the Madson Facilities Building — the power/heating plant — in 1923, 100 years ago this year. Since then, every major building has used limestone in similar but also new and innovative ways,” he says. “It adds to the campus character and creates a truly beautifully consistent and scenic place to go to college.”