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)
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.