This landscape-based concept represented a break from the architecturally-defined courtyard and quadrangle campus arrangement that was typical of American campuses at the time.

Frederick Law Olmsted, Jr., Boston's preeminent landscape architect at the beginning of the 20th century, described Wellesley's landscape as "not merely beautiful, but with a marked individual character not represented so far as I know on the ground of any other college in the country".

The original master plan for Wellesley's campus landscape was developed by Olmsted, Arthur Shurcliff, and Ralph Adams Cram in 1921.

Its charter was signed on March 17, 1870, by Massachusetts Governor William Claflin.

The original name of the college was the Wellesley Female Seminary; its renaming to Wellesley College was approved by the Massachusetts legislature on March 7, 1873.

Wellesley is home to 56 departmental and interdepartmental majors spanning the liberal arts, as well as over 150 student clubs and organizations.

The college is also known for allowing its students to cross-register at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Brandeis, Babson College and Olin College.The most recent master plan for Wellesley College was completed in 1998 by Michael Van Valkenburgh Associates.According to the designers, this plan was intended to restore and recapture the original landscape character of the campus that had been partially lost as the campus evolved through the 20th century.Adams, Barbara Warne Newell, Nannerl Overholser Keohane (later the president of Duke University from 1993–2004), Diana Chapman Walsh, H. The original architecture of the college consisted of one very large building, College Hall, which was approximately 150 metres (490 ft) in length and five stories in height. From its completion in 1875 until its destruction by fire in 1914, it was both an academic building and residential building.On March 17, 1914, College Hall was destroyed by fire, the precise cause of which was never officially established.Wellesley athletes compete in the NCAA Division III New England Women's and Men's Athletic Conference.