Shades of Green
Naturally, as something of an outdoorsman myself, Dartmouth seemed like a mecca. I envisioned idyllic autumn days spent scaling Mount Moosilauke and traversing the Connecticut River, and, needless to say, the allure was enough that I found myself in Hanover this fall.
While not all of my friends will corroborate my rugged exterior and naturalist tendencies, what is unanimously accepted is my inability to separate myself from sunlight during the spring months. For those of us who presumptively fancy ourselves a more refined brand of outdoorsmen, the Green becomes a staple for all tanning-related activities. It serves as the hub of social, gastronomical and academic life. Coffee dates, Collis lunches and ill-fated study sessions are relocated to the most verdant patches of the Green while guitars and ukuleles emerge from the dormitories of the musically inclined. At the risk of sounding overconfident, I would characterize myself as an aficionado of the Green life. Even so, despite my frequent respites on the Green, rocking coral shorts, boat shoes and Ray-Bans while casually perpetuating stereotypes, I find myself shockingly ignorant of its history. Conflicting stories from friends and classmates left me doubting who really owned the Green.
My uncertainties were short-lived. Though many students insisted that the Green remains the property of Hanover, town manager, Julia Griffin set the record straight.
"The town does not own the Green," Griffin said. "It is College property."
Despite laying that first mystery to rest, my knowledge of the Green's past remained incomplete.
After a quick trip to the Rauner Special Collections Library, however, I was well on my way to becoming a history buff. According to a 1978 thesis by University of Virginia student Vanessa Patrick, the Green was originally a pine grove that sloped into a swamp in the southwest corner. Though the area wasn't officially cleared and maintained until after the College's founding in 1769, town proprietors incorporated it into plans for Hanover. They sought to unify the town around a central location to avoid the administrative problems they had faced in their other landholdings.
My brief voyage through the storied past of Hanover was not without surprises. According to Patrick's research, Eleazar Wheelock intended the College to be centered approximately a quarter mile northwest of its current location. But as he searched for an optimal location to begin construction of College Hall, the lack of underground springs in the area redirected his efforts to the southeast, closer to the current location of the Green.
The history of the Green is interspersed with contention between Dartmouth and Hanover over ownership and legal rights. After a small conflict in 1775, nearly a century passed before the town made any further encroachments upon Dartmouth's claim to the land. But in 1873, the town of Hanover seized part of the Green in an effort to widen the road along the southwest corner.
In response, Dartmouth students burned down the fence cordoning off Hanover's portion of the Green. The two parties reached an agreement when Hanover cited the town's earlier founding date to substantiate their claim to the land. Respecting the consensus between the College and the town, students rebuilt the fence and the Green was reduced to its current size. The students' passionate defense of the Green, even early in the College's history, belies its significance.
Today, the Green still holds a vital role in campus culture. Jim Alberghini, the college manager of conferences, who oversees all events on the Green, said students and organizations are always eager to use the space.
"People are very frequently coming to us with ideas," Alberghini said. "But if we allowed everything to move forward, there would end up being one or two formal events on the Green every day."
Nearly every event proposed must be reviewed and approved by the conferences and special events office.
Alberghini also ensures that the Green is properly maintained for the annual events exempt from the review process. Commencement, the Homecoming bonfire, Powwow, Winter Carnival, Green Key and the town's Fourth of July celebration all contribute to the deterioration of the grounds. The northern end of the Green is subsequently roped off and fertilized early in the spring.
"The Commencement ceremony places particular demands on the northern half of the Green, and we want to ensure that both ends of the Green are about equal in use and appearance afterward," he said.
Alberghini said his primary goal is to preserve the Green's accessibility to students and members of the community.
"It is intended to be kept open for informal use as much as possible," Alberghini said.
Dartmouth students are acutely aware of the significance of the Green.
"I simply couldn't imagine Dartmouth without the Green," Evan Curhan '14 said.
Like many students, Curhan considers the Green integral to campus social life, especially when the weather is warm.
"Whether they're playing Frisbee or just hanging out, everyone seems to congregate there," Curhan said.
The Green's centrality catalyzes togetherness and fosters a greater sense of community amongst students.
"When spring finally comes and everyone goes outside, at Dartmouth, everyone goes to the Green," Curhan said. "At other schools, there isn't as much cohesiveness."
Many recognize the importance of the Green in forming the public image of the College and its students.
"The Green is an iconic part of Dartmouth," Walker Sales '16 said.
In the same way that the Green aesthetically unites the campus, it also brings all members of the Dartmouth community together in a common space. Its capacity to do so is of utmost importance when the strength of our community is called into question. Even if only symbolically, the Green reminds us of our shared experiences and common purposes. It would seem there is no other place our community is so fully manifest.
You can always find me on the Green, logging as much facetime as humanly possible and donning my most ostentatious pairs of sunglasses and egregiously neon shorts. Stop by, listen to our classmates' music drifting across the Green and think of those who walked here before you, and those who will do so in the years to come.