Founded in 1813, the original 30-acre campus was located along the Kennebec River. In 1929 trustees voted to relocate the campus away from the city and ever-encroaching industrial development. In 1931 Jens Frederick Larson was hired to design a new campus for the historic college. The selected site, named Mayflower Hill for its native flowers, consisted of old pastureland, a few woodlots, and an orchard on a steep slope.
Larson’s master plan recalled Thomas Jefferson’s concept for an academical village, featuring the library at the head of a lawn bordered by academic buildings, with separate quadrangles for a chapel and men’s housing. Along the main drive, Larson proposed women’s housing to the left of the main quad and an area for athletics to the right. College Pond (later renamed Johnson Pond) provided a naturalistic setting. Much of Larson’s design was installed, with some work undertaken by the Works Progress Administration. The campus transition was completed from the original site by 1952. Between 1932 and the 1950s, the Olmsted Brothers designed plans for planting, improvements around Lorimer Chapel, and grading and parking near fraternities.
Forest growth eventually replaced the remaining pastureland so that today the 600-acre campus resembles a clearing in the woods, with its Georgian Revival architecture suggesting 19th century origins.