Parish House

Ben Weiss

A wave of “general mourning” descended over Northfield at 7:20 p.m. on January 29, 1919. Everything in the city stopped. The movie theater closed. A basketball game between Carleton and St. Olaf was interrupted. Fred Burnett Hill, Carleton alumnus and beloved professor of Biblical literature, had just succumbed to the Spanish flu.

Having recently returned from France, where he had observed the aftermath of the Great War, Hill was considered by President Donald J. Cowling to have “died for his country as truly as any soldier who died on the battlefield.” Hill’s memorial service in Skinner Memorial Chapel attracted 1,100 people.

Parish House is a living memorial to Hill’s legacy. Constructed in 1912 as Hill’s residence, it originally contained a private gymnasium, pool hall, tennis courts, and large library. After Hill died, his wife sold the property to the Northfield Methodists, who relocated their church to the house’s east lawn in 1924. In 1965, Carleton bought the church, parish house, and rectory (built by the Methodists in the early 1950s). The church was demolished in 1966.

In 1986, Carleton turned the house into a dormitory. A decade later, after extensive renovations, Parish House became Carleton’s official language dormitory. Today, it continues as a language dormitory with the broader designation of “international house.”