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August 06, 1992|MIKE WARD

Claremont Heritage will conduct a walking tour of the Claremont Colleges on Saturday, offering insights into the history and architecture of what was once known as "Oxford in the Orange Belt."

The orange groves were long ago uprooted to make way for houses, factories, shopping centers and mini-malls, but the colleges have adhered to the Oxford University model.

The vision for the group plan came in the 1920s from a Pomona College president who was worried that enrollment growth would undermine educational quality.

"My own very deep hope," James Blaisdell wrote in a letter in 1923, "is that instead of one great undifferentiated university, we might have a group of institutions divided into small colleges--somewhat on the Oxford type--around a library and other utilities which they would use in common. In this way I should hope to preserve the inestimable personal values of the small college while securing the facilities of the great university. Such a development would be a new and wonderful contribution to American education."

Blaisdell's hopes were realized when Pomona College, established in 1887, was joined by Scripps College and Claremont Graduate School in the 1920s; Claremont Men's College (now known as Claremont McKenna) in the 1940s, Harvey Mudd College in the '50s and Pitzer College in the '60s.

Ginger Elliott, executive director of Claremont Heritage, said that while the colleges adjoin each other and share facilities, each campus has its own distinctive features, which cannot be fully appreciated by motorists driving through.

"The only way to see the campuses is to walk them," she said.

The two-hour tour will start at 9:30 a.m. at Seaver House, 305 N. College Ave. Tickets may be purchased for $5 at the starting point.

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