Tappan Square is a 13-acre green space that connects the college to the city of Oberlin. Legend has it that Oberlin’s founders, Presbyterian ministers John Shipherd and Philo Stewart, stopped at an elm tree in the southeast corner, prayed, and decided that it was the place to build their community. The historic elm stayed on the square until disease forced its removal in 1965. A year later, Tappan Square became a National Historic Landmark.
The park is named after Arthur Tappan, a 19th-century abolitionist who was instrumental in keeping the college financially solvent in its early years. In addition to trees, benches, and swings, the park also features Clark Bandstand, the Memorial Arch, and two boulders known as the Rocks that often have spray-painted messages.