Suzassippi’s Mississippi: Rowan Oak

Rowan Oak, the home of William Faulkner from 1930 until his death in 1962, ranked number 1 on the Oxford-Holly Springs regional poll results for the 101 Places in Mississippi to see before you die list. I actually made it over to Rowan Oak in spring of 2004, a mere 9 months after my arrival in Oxford. The occasion was the first visit of my friends and our need to do the Oxford tourist trail for them. I have not been back since then, but I decided a road-trip was in order, and got up early to make the 3 mile trek over to Bailey’s Woods.

Rowan Oak was built for Irish planter Robert Sheegog, c. 1848, in the Greek Revival style (John D. McDermott, 1968, in the nomination form for the National Register). Architect was William Turner (Mississippi Department of Archives & History/Historic Resources Inventory database). The house was “badly deteriorated, but primarily unaltered” (McDermott) when purchased by Faulkner in 1930. Faulkner himself did much of the repairs to the house, and named it Rowan Oak. The name

…derived from the legend that Scottish peasants placed crosses of Rowan wood above their doorways to ward off evil spirits and create a place of peace and privacy for the inhabitants. (McDermott)

…wood-frame…double-piled…tetrastyle monumental portico of square box columns… (Mississippi Department of Archives & History/HRI)

The house sits on 31.31 acres of wooded land. A cedar tree-lined drive leads to the house and cedar trees shade the front walk. Original outbuildings include the barn constructed from hand-hewn logs, and the brick cook’s house and kitchen, used as a smokehouse by Faulkner. Faulkner also added a modern wooden barn. Two formal gardens are present, though in sad-looking shape.

The house and woods was acquired by the University of Mississippi in 1973, and is maintained as a museum.

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Categories: 101 MissPres Places, Mississippi Landmarks, Museums, National Register, Oxford

12 replies

  1. Thank you very much for sharing these pictures and narrative. I never got to visit Rowan Oak. It is quite beautiful and much as I pictured it in my mind. Enjoy every posting.

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  2. I am sure someone over there (Bill Griffith, especially) appreciates your acknowledgment. Thanks for the addition.

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  3. Rowan Oak is sometimes spelled Roan Oak.

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  4. Thank you for this post. It was nice to spend a few minutes this morning lost in reverie thinking about the peaceful grounds of Rowan Oak. I’ve never made it inside either, this post reminds me to put that on the Oxford to do list!

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  5. WOW! Did someone say “not in love with Faulkner”? I probably didn’t read that post correctly. HaHa. Well, it took me many years to “acquire” a fondness for W.F.
    I have been all over the grounds, inside and out, for many years. I am an alum of the Ole Miss pharmacy school and my son is in there now (pharmacy also). We are as in love with Rowan Oak as any south Mississippi family can be. HaHa. I remember reading The Reivers as my first venture into Faulkner. I bet I started that book ten times before being able to finish it.
    Merry Christmas to all!

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