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Indiana University

Dunn's Woods Restoration and Education Project
The Old Crescent circa 1898. Left to right: Maxwell Hall, Owen Hall, Wylie Hall, Kirkwood Hall. The edge of Dunn's Woods can be seen to the right foreground. Photo courtesy of IU Archives.













"I hope our alumni will always insist upon the retention of our precious islands of green and serenity -- our most important physical asset, trancending even classrooms, libraries, and laboratories in their ability to inspire students to dream long dreams of future usefulness and achievement -- dreams that are an important and essential part of undergraduate college experience."                   - Herman B Wells, 1962

A modest forest stands at the green heart of Indiana University. Purchased in 1883, Dunn’s Woods comprised the 20-acre nucleus of today’s 2,000-acre campus. Noteworthy for its verdant beauty and Gothic limestone architecture, the campus has combined esthetic appeal with functional efficiency for generations. Early buildings formed a crescent around the wooded quadrangle, and the entire area, known as the Old Crescent, earned designation in the National Register of Historic Places in 1980.

The Dunn’s Woods campus was the second home of Indiana University, founded in 1820. First known as the Indiana State Seminary, the original site was a small property located a few blocks south of the courthouse in Bloomington. In contrast to the seminary square site, at Dunn’s Woods much of the existing landscape was left undisturbed as new buildings were constructed and pathways connecting them were built. David Starr Jordan, who served on the biology faculty before his selection as IU president in 1885, remarked to President Lemuel Moss as the Dunn’s Woods property was acquired: "I am glad to hear of the general brightness of the prospects of the institution. ... the location is certainly better among those great maples. I hope that you will let none be cut down, except when their removal is absolutely necessary." So began an unbroken tradition of respect and reverence for the trees and the landscape of Dunn's Woods that has continued to the present.

In 2010, our team began working to document the cultural and land use history of the woods. This knowledge, in combination with our ecological research, is essential to a full understanding of the diverse forces that have shaped this special place and to our efforts to control the infestation of Purple Wintercreeper (Euonymus fortunei) and other exotic invasive plants, to promote native flora (including perennial wildflowers), and to educate all about this iconic example of Midwestern forest biodiversity at the heart of a great public university.


Capshew J., Bracalente AL. 2010. "Finding Dunn's Woods: In Search of IUB's Genius Loci," Presentation to the Indiana University Librarians Association. Included a short questionnaire to librarians on use of Dunn’s Woods.

Bracalente, A. 2011. “Exploring the Woodland Campus of Indiana University, Bloomington”, Indiana University Continuing Studies.


Bracalente, A. 2012. “ Indiana University's Woodland Campus." View, Library of American Landscape History. [pdf]

Capshew J. Bracalente AL. (In prep). “Cultivating Dunn’s Woods: Roots of Indiana University’s Campus Design. For: Landscape Journal.