I will now announce my much-anticipated nominations for “Coolest Ole Miss Buildings.” To appeal to all segments of my vast reading audience, I have two nominations: one from the 19th century, the other so far into the 20th century, you’ll be amazed at my open-mindedness.
Drum-roll please . . .
All you Ole Miss alums, get ready for me to rock your world because the Lyceum? the icon of your university? the image that’s plastered over everything even remotely having to do with official correspondence? Not the coolest 19th-century building on campus, in this blogger’s oh-so-humble opinion. Instead, my nomination is the Barnard Observatory. First of all, and of course most importantly for Mississippians, the Barnard is antebellum (1859), which means its bona-fides are completely in order. Second, the Barnard is a visual and sensory candy store–there’s too much to even talk about without hyperventilating. Not only are there all sorts of cool features and knick-knacks on the outside, like beaded window muntins (!), when you walk inside, the true amazing-ness hits you square in the face: from the rotunda, to the four or five really fine staircases, to the skylight in the east wing, to the big beefy Greek Revival moldings. And that’s not even counting the real centerpiece of the whole show: the grand dome or drum or, if you insist on proper terminology, the weird cylindrical thingy on top. Factor in the two smaller dome/drums/cylindrical things, along with the transit room that still shows its original use in its ceiling slit–you can see why, even now, days later, I’m struggling to catch my breath.
Alright, you’re still not convinced. My closely reasoned argument hasn’t done the trick. If not, maybe these photos will help bring you over to the Barnard Side. (This Ole Miss webpage also has lots of helpful historical information too.)
Ok, so much for the 19th century. Let’s move into the 20th century. Now here, I had a little problem because there are just so many really wonderful classical buildings designed by architects I admire like R.W. Naef and Frank Gates (I showed you some of those yesterday). So, since you’ve already been knocked out of your comfort zone by the Barnard, I thought I would continue the theme by introducing you to a distinctly non-classical 20th-century building on the Ole Miss campus. This is a massive structure, and so far up on the Coolness Meter (or would it be down?) it can’t stand itself. I’m referring of course to the C.M Tad Smith Coliseum (the “C” stands for “Claude” so I guess he thought “Tad” sounded better?), built in 1965 and designed by two Mississippi Delta architectural firms, Pritchard & Nickles (Tunica) and Brewer, Skewes & Godbold (Clarksdale). Frankly, until this building, I haven’t seen much by either of these firms that I’ve just loved, but this coliseum shows me they were capable of really clean and sophisticated (for a coliseum) Modern design.