Mears Cottage

Street Address: 
1213 6th Avenue
Grinnell, IA 50112
United States

Today the building provides attractive office space for faculty in the English, history, and gender, women's, and sexuality studies departments, smaller classrooms ideal for discussion, and a lounge.


Building Details

Offices / Resources: 
Gender, Women's, and Sexuality Studies
Building History: 

Situated on a knoll east of Burling Library is Mears Cottage. The three-story Victorian edifice at the top of the knoll served originally as a women's residence, one of the first of its kind at any college west of the Mississippi River. Although there was a college-owned Ladies' Boarding Hall that preceded Mears, students at that time generally boarded in city residences. The cottage, which is on the National Register of Historic Places, was built in 1888 with funds donated by Edward A. Goodnow in honor of Mary Grinnell Mears (1857-1935), daughter of J.B. and Julia Chapin Grinnell and wife of the Rev. David O. Mears. The architect was Charles D. Marvin of New York. The site of the cottage was determined by a donation of land owned by Joshua Metcalf Chamberlain, librarian, treasurer, and trustee of the College. (His residence at 1131 Park Street is now Harry Hopkins House.) The structure in its original form was designed to provide 28 women with a quiet ambiance for study and genteel social interaction. The quarters for male students were placed at a "proper" distance from Mears, and as historian Joan Zimmerman '71 has noted, "the idea here was to educate women at the same time they were kept symbolically at home." The building was enlarged in 1904 to accommodate 100 students and remained a women's residence until 1978 when it became coeducational. The next year the cottage was closed because of its deteriorating condition. The building was unused for a number of years until a generous gift from John H. Harris '39 and Lucile Hanson Harris '40 led to a handsome renovation under the supervision of architects Ben Weese and Stephen Christien. The building was reopened in 1986.

Date of Construction: