Nutting House

Ben Weiss

In the early 1930s, two Carleton students, looking for somewhere to live because they had not enrolled early enough to find a place in a dorm, noticed the grand mansion on the corner of Union and Third Streets. They stopped to inquire whether the owner might rent them a room. She agreed, and they were allowed to stay for more than a year, eventually becoming friends of the family.

This act of generosity to Carleton and Carleton students was common to the Nutting family across generations, stretching back to when John C. Nutting, president of the First National Bank of Northfield and trustee of Carleton College, constructed Nutting House in 1888. When Nutting died, Carleton’s student newspaper exclaimed that, “his connection with Carleton College … has been most invaluable.”

Presently, Nutting House is owned by Carleton College, the result of a bequest by John C. Nutting’s granddaughters, Helen and Ruth Nutting, in 1970. Officially named to the National Register of Historic Places, it is the only remaining example of a brick house of its size and period in Northfield.

The four-story residence towers above the surrounding houses. The highest floor, dubbed the “sky parlor,” is reached by climbing twenty-eight stairs, crossing a bridge, and then climbing yet another flight of stairs. Here, Helen and Ruth loved to stargaze with their mother.

The eight upstairs bedrooms illustrate John C. Nutting’s past work in the lumber industry in California; each is trimmed with a different type of wood, including white oak, red oak, ash, birch, cherry, pine, and California redwood. And like the house’s top floor, the bottom floor has an idiosyncratic design; the multi-level basement was once used for dances. The house also held one of the first indoor bathrooms in Northfield. Today, it is the home of the Carleton College president.