The President’s Residence, Nutting House, was built in 1888 for the family of John Claudius and Calista (Morse) Nutting, and was given to Carleton College in 1970 by their granddaughters. Contemporary newspaper reports referred to the house as “one of the finest in the city.” It was named to the National Register of Historic Places in 1970 due to its status as the only remaining example of a brick home of this size and period in Northfield, and as a well-known landmark in the community because of the high regard in which the Nutting Family was held.
With an exterior faced in cream brick trimmed with red sandstone, beveled glass and stained glass in various windows, gingerbread-style porches, pocket doors, and extensive use of various hard and soft woods throughout the interior of the twenty-room home, it has long been regarded as an architectural treasure in Northfield.
In 1912 a fifty-six by twelve foot porch was added to the rear of the house, with a second story, twenty-five by twelve feet, and in 1917 the original two parlors on the main floor were combined. In the 1930s the deterioration of the wood on the original front porches led to their demolition. Due to the Depression, they were replaced with much simpler structures, and the porch had only one story. In 2000, Ruth Nutting made a special gift to Carleton so that the porches could be rebuilt according to the original plan. Working from the old elevation drawings and historical photographs from the Nuttings’ collection, the architectural firm of Miller-Dunwiddie designed the restoration. At that time, the exterior brick was washed to restore its original color. The red-brown paint approximates as closely as possible the original color found in scrapings.
The Nutting family has been associated with Carleton since its founding. John C. Nutting was a trustee of the College, and through his leadership of the First National Bank provided a strong link between Carleton and Northfield. His son John D. Nutting graduated from Carleton in 1906, and in 1916 he married Elizabeth Adams, a teacher at Carleton. John D. Nutting was also president of the First National Bank and served as a trustee of Carleton. The two Nutting daughters, Helen and Ruth, graduated from Carleton in 1940 and 1942, respectively. After John and Elizabeth Nutting died in the late 1960s, the Nutting sisters gave their home to Carleton College for use as a residence for its presidents. President Howard Swearer and his family were the first College residents, and it has been the home of Presidents Robert Edwards, Stephen Lewis, Robert Oden, Steven Poskanzer, and their families in the succeeding years. Alison Byerly and Steve Jensen became the newest residents in August 2021.
A number of changes in décor have been made over the years as the furnishings, art work, and other aspects of interior design have shifted to fit each president.
In the entry hall, the overhead light fixture and a pierglass mirror on a marble-topped stand are part of the original furnishings. The front hall gives a powerful first impression of the intricate detail in the woodwork, as well as in the brass hardware used throughout the house on the doors and windows.
Of special interest in the main living room is a portrait of Dudley Carleton, grandson of the College’s early benefactor, and another of Mrs. Michael Carleton, mother of the College’s founder. The portraits were gifts from the Carleton family. College-owned silver, including the Nutting Family’s tea set, is displayed in a glass-fronted cabinet. The fireplace mantle and tilework are original to the house. Pocket doors frame both entrances to the living room.
The room with French doors leading to the screened porch was originally the library. The built-in secretary desk on the south wall and the overhead light fixture are original features. The beveled and leaded glass window over the French doors was designed and built by Carleton glazier Michael Kinseth to match the glass over the main front door.
A main feature of the dining room is the extensive built-in buffet, which includes a pass-through to the kitchen. The cupboard doors are carved in the Aesthetic Style. The Eastlake dining table belonged to the Nutting Family. The adjacent room, now used as a library, was originally a study. Of special interest is the portrait of Margaret Evans Huntington, whose distinguished career included titles of Preceptress of the Northfield Academy, Lady Principal, and Dean of the Women’s Department. In 2006 the shelves and storage cupboards which had been added in the 1970s were replaced with shelves and cupboards more appropriate to the architectural style of the house. Sets of china, including one that was hand-decorated by Elizabeth Nutting in the early part of the twentieth century, are stored in the cupboards
The powder room was remodeled in 1999 to provide an accessible facility for guests. The elevator bay at the south end of the screened porch was also added to enhance accessibility.
When the College acquired the house, the kitchen was remodeled to accommodate the extensive entertaining done by Carleton presidents. Beyond the kitchen is the office of the Nutting House Operations Manager and a laundry room.
The President’s private quarters on the second floor include a master bedroom/bathroom suite and two bedrooms. In 2006 three small rooms on the east side were converted to one large room which serves as kitchen, dining room and family room. A laundry room and second bathroom complete the space.
At the south end of the main section is a back stairway which was designed for use by the servants who lived on the second floor. The two bedrooms of the servants’ quarters are now used as guest bedrooms. At the top of the back hall stairs, a door leads to the attic stairs. In the main attic is a further set of stairs which leads up to the “Sky Parlor” which provides extensive height to the building.
Ruth and Helen Nutting showed exceptional generosity in giving their family home to Carleton in 1970. Ruth’s further gift to restore the house to its original condition, along with her bequest for the maintenance, repair, and restoration of Nutting House has provided both Carleton and Northfield with an architectural gem for which the college community is most grateful.