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.
Categories: Cool Old Places, Historic Preservation, Oxford, Universities/Colleges
Maybe I am misremembering, but I thought that the telescope never actually made it to Barnard Observatory and ended up at a Northern university.
I knew the original didn’t–ended up in Illinois–but was there never one there? The friendly physicist I met over at Kennon indicated that the observatory moved out of Barnard when Kennon was built in 1939.
According to an Alabama Heritage magazine article about Frederick Augustus Porter Barnard (the man behind the building), all the cool telescopes with their silver knobs, brass bodies, etc….were melted in the WWII scrap metal drive.
I was fortunate to be involved in the Restoration of Barnard Observatory in the late 1980s. With the outbreak of the Civil War, the building’s original telescope, commissioned by Chancellor F.A.P. Barnard, was diverted and later installed at the Dearborn Observatory at Northwestern University. The building was equipped with a (less ambitious) telescope after the War. (The Yale-educated Barnard, an early advocate for co-education of men and women, returned to the North and became president of Columbia University. When Columbia formed a separate college for women, they named Barnard College in his honor.) The University Museum has a significant collection of the University’s oldest scientific instruments: the Millington-Barnard Collection. http://www.olemiss.edu/depts/u_museum/Millington/
Well that’s helpful information, and straight from the horse’s mouth, so to speak :-) Thanks for getting our facts right, and welcome to MissPres!
I followed today’s link to this old post and discovered the architecture firms, Pritchard & Nickles and Brewer, Skewes & Godbold are mislocated, in Jackson. Pritchard & Nickles was located in Tunica; Brewer, Skewes & Godbold was in Clarksdale.
Thanks for pointing out that mistake, Tom. I’ve made the correction in the post above.