Bloomington Urban Woodlands Project


"I hope our alumni will always insist upon the retention of our precious islands of green and serenity -- our most important physical asset, transcending 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
Dunn's Woods

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A modest forest stands at the green heart of Indiana University’s 2000-acre campus. Purchased in 1883 from the Dunn family, Dunn’s Woods was originally part of the Dunn family farm. Photographs from the turn of the 20th Century show Dunn’s Woods as a lawn with scattered trees and no underbrush. Combined with the sloping and rolling terrain that would have been unsuitable for row crops, this suggests prior use as a hog and cattle pasture. 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.

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 invasion 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.

Latimer Woods

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Like Dunn’s Woods, Latimer Woods was part of a family farm for generations. Mr. Hugh Latimer and his family dedicated the ~ten-acre woodland to the Bloomington Community Foundation in 1999, and the City of Bloomington Parks and Recreation Department maintains the woodland as part of its parks and trails system. Read more about this woodland at:

Presentations & Publications

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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. (Link to History of Dunn's Woods PDF)

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