Tappan Square 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. Originally known as “the Campus,” several college buildings were built on the square. At the bequest of 1885 alumnus Charles Martin Hall, inventor of the commercial process for aluminum production, the buildings were removed. Hall wanted to preserve an open park area in Oberlin, free from buildings. The only structures that remain in the square are the Clark Bandstand and the Memorial Arch.
The 13-acre site hosts many events—festivals, bonfires, rallies, concerts, vigils, and marches. In particular, Tappan Square provides a home for Commencement, Folk Fest, the Doggie Doo Dog Parade, Local Foods Fest, Beltane, Juneteenth, the Oberlin Rocks, and a small group of albino squirrels. Events in Tappan are generally free, geared toward building community between college students and Oberlin residents.