History of Art in Mississippi: Ole Miss

As you may recall, a couple of weeks ago, we started an occasional Book Quotes series from the 1929 book The History of Art in Mississippi. Today we return to the chapter on Public Buildings with the entry on the University of Mississippi. Those of you unfortunate enough to have graduated from one of Mississippi’s other fine collegiate institutions will be disappointed, but no doubt not surprised, to find that Ole Miss is the only state university to make the cut in the book. Apparently, all of the women in the Mississippi Art Association went to Ole Miss, or at least wished they had.

So enjoy, all you Rebels . . . uh, Black Bears, and for the rest of us, just humor them for a while and they’ll be on their way eventually.


The University of Mississippi at Oxford

Known as Ole Miss, the University is loved and revered by all who have found learning in its courtly halls, or come in contact with the simple charm that radiates from this seat of fine education for the youth of Mississippi. So strong is the love of Ole Miss’ sons and daughters for her, that when the question came before the 1928 Legislature of tearing her from her scholastic setting, amid the hills of North Mississippi and from the hoary traditions there surrounding her, to bring her down to the center of the state, where there would be room for expansion and she would be more easy access–a mighty wail went up!

That sacrilege could not be allowed, beautiful things, though old, should be kept intact, not torn up and rebuilt! Rather bring in the new and make it harmonize with the old, so that each may gain from the close association. What more sterile atmosphere, than a new educational center, built up on blank fields out of new bricks laid methodically! No matter how complete the architects plan for beauty, it has a sameness and a lack of soul, that only the hallowing of age and tradition can change and beautify.

So Ole Miss still remains at Oxford, and there breathes out her atmosphere of learning and wise old age. The state legislature has appropriated $1,600,00 for the purpose of erecting buildings, making improvements, additions, and repairs. These new buildings follow out the architectural style of the old ones, that is, they are colonial in type with columned front.

A large part of the appropriation, $450,000, went into dormitories for both the boys and the girls, and $200,000 into the University and general hospital equipment. Then there will soon be finished a Law Building, Graduate School Building and classrooms, Gymnasium, and a Training School. The old Law Building is to be made over for geology. Many departments are to have new equipment, and such utilitarian things as a new power plant, sewerage, and good paving are being provided. So it is now rapidly becoming a wonderfully well-equipped State University.

Cooper Postcard Collection, MDAH

The Lyceum is one of the loveliest old buildings on the campus. It has been the principal building for years, and contains the chancellor’s, registrar’s and dean’s offices. It is a fine example of Greek architecture, but the wings on each side were added long after the building was completed, and the same huge columns adorn both back and front. Its corner stone was laid on July 14, 1846, and gives proof that Oxford is one of the oldest Universities of the South.

Barnard Observatory

The Observatory and Hall of Physics, with the Chancellor’s residence at one end, is a symmetrical and solidly built brick building, erected in 1856 and still in fine condition. The library is a handsome and modern building, also of brick, with a semi-circular rear. It contains some beautiful marble paneling on both first and second floors, and much ingenuity has been shown in the arrangement of the veining in such a way as to form grotesque figures on the panels. It was built in 1910, with Harry N. Austin of Jackson as architect.

Other buildings of the University are Gordon Hall, Peabody, Chemical, and Medical, these buildings are all well constructed and modern, but of no particular style of architecture, as is true also of the older dormitories.

Old Chapel (now Croft Institute of International Studies), Cooper Postcard Collection, MDAH

The Chapel is perhaps the oldest building on the campus, next to the Lyceum, and is a fine solidly built square structure, built in 1848. The lovely old trees and surroundings of the University are perhaps one of its greatest charms, and this old seat of learning will always hold an appeal to the cultured people of this and other states.

Categories: Architectural Research, Historic Preservation, Oxford, Universities/Colleges

4 replies

  1. Hail to the alma mater! I guess “hotty-totty” will become “yabba-dabba-do” now with enhanced pic-i-nic baskets in the Grove! Green space, though, becoming ever more precious, and large portico-tarted buildings more encroaching. Living a semester in Barnard Observatory when it was a sorority house was a particular treat (lovely old peeling wallpaper) – but I am sorry to have missed some of the old structures from my Mom’s era.


  2. As late as the 1980s, you could go in upstairs rooms in the Old Chapel (then called The Y Building) and see how the rooms would have been laid out as late 19th Century dorm rooms. I noticed this because I saw a photo of one of the dorm rooms (when still in use) from the late 19th c in a book published by the University Dept of Archives. I went looking upstairs in the Y and you could still see the “bones” of those old rooms– mantlepiece, molding, etc.

    I assume this was all lost in the renovation that created the Croft Institute, although I’d hope it would have been documented in the process of planning that project.

    I share Kathleen’s dislike in the bogus porticos that seem compulsory in all designs going back to the Gerald Turner era.

    here’s a you-should-have-seen-it-before-they-messed-it-up example folks might not be aware of: My high school Latin teacher was still (circa 1970) mad about the late 40s decision to locate the Library where it is now, behind the Lyceum building. She pointed out that it ruined the central design of the campus: With the double doors open at both ends of the Lyceum you could see from one end of the campus (beyond the tennis courts to what was once the hospital) to the other (from the front of the Lyceum all the way to the bridge over the Hilgard Cut. The location of the chapel makes it even harder to imagine that view.


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