New Deal in Mississippi: Somerville and Barnard Halls

Somerville front door

Somerville Hall and Barnard Hall are the final two dormitories built with New Deal Administration funds on the campus of the University of Mississippi.  They were not the final buildings–we still have a few more to go, including one that might surprise you…or not.  Somerville and Barnard were built as women’s dormitories, and were attached to Isom Hall, a women’s dorm built in 1929.  Let me tell you, after 10 years on this campus, I find something new all the time.  Who knew that the entrances to these buildings was behind another building, with no road leading to the front door?  I mean, other than the people who lived there when it was used for dorms, and those who work there, now that they are offices.  It certainly explained some things to me.

Somerville frontSomerville and Barnard were both built in 1938 under the Federal Emergency Administration of Public Work (Miss. Project 1216-DS, the same one that funded Garland, Hedleston, Mayes, and Levell Halls).  The architect was R. W. Naef, who as previously mentioned, apparently had all the New Deal business with the University going his way, and builder was W. J. McGee and Son (Mississippi Department of Archives and History, Historic Resources Inventory database).  Somerville is currently home to the Center for Writing and Rhetoric, and offices of the English Department.

Barnard side 2

This photograph might give you some insight into why I always thought Barnard Hall was about the ugliest building on campus.  When one drives past, this is the view.  A prominent sign explains it is Barnard Hall, and home of ROTC.  I had always naively assumed this was the front door.  In my defense, here is why:

Barnard side

Coming from the opposite direction, this is the view of Barnard.  Obviously, the “back door” right?  When I stopped to take the photograph, I noted for the first time the connection to another building, and taking the photograph on the other side, saw it was also connected to a building on that side.  However, I had not a clue as to why or what those buildings were.  Driving through the parking lot produced an answer:


Ta Da!  If one walks up the drive from the parking lot (note: not for driving unless you are an official university vehicle who is permitted to park behind that wall visible to the right of the photograph), the front of the three buildings and their courtyard are visible.  Albeit the view from that lovely courtyard is the trash bin and the backside of Fulton.


Apparently, since Isom Hall was already in existence as a women’s dorm, Barnard and Somerville were built with an attachment that joined all three buildings.  Viewed from the air, it is rather like a Y shape, with the front of Barnard connecting the two wings.  (Note: I do not know if there are any internal connections in the buildings, or if they simply share an external wall.

Aerial view BIS


The architect for Isom was Frank P. Gates, who also designed a number of other buildings on campus, including Martindale gymnasium, the old University High School, and Bondurant Hall, the first Graduate School (MDAH/HRI).  Builder was Estes and Reed, also involved in building other dorms in 1929.  The entrance to Somerville is similar to the one on Isom, which seems to tie the two units together along with the rather plain facade on Barnard.

These buildings are also identified as “contributing buildings” in the Master Plan for the campus, so that should mean they are going to stay around for a while.

Categories: Historic Preservation, New Deal, Oxford, Universities/Colleges

12 replies

  1. I lived in Somerville dormatory for two summers while I attended the UPWARD BOUND program back in the early 1970s. The first year I was there in the summer, the women resided in Barnard Hall and the men in Kincannon. The next two years the men lived in Somerville while the women resided in Deaton which is now a men’s residence hall. Deaton was nice back then but Somerville was a dump! Kincannon was a dump even in 1971. When are they going to demolish that monstrosity and build something nice like GREEN SPACE that has been lost over the years? There used to be a nice sports field there in the bowl area where there is a parking lot between Barnard/Somerville/Deaton and across the way Brown, and Hefley. That was back in the day before Ricks Hall and another dormitory that I can’t remember the name of was demolished to build the Student Union building.


  2. Our family (both my husband I are Architects) fell victim to the “this ugly building has a lame entrance” thinking last winter when we made a visit to Barnard Hall to meet with folks about our Ole Miss Freshman’s ROTC program. Later, during summer Freshmen orientation, we happened upon the real entrance! Of course, my husband does preservation and we couldn’t help redesigning it…


  3. Didja know that Martindale Center for Student Services used to be the GYMNASIUM? and there was a big swimming pool just to the west of it. Played basketball many times in the gym and swam a lot in the pool.


  4. Please, more of these fascinating walks around Ole Miss! Thanks for all your research and facts.


  5. I lived in Isom in the late 1980s. As I recall, there were actually five entrances: the front portico entrance (pictured), an entrance through the back into an interior service stairwell, a side entrance facing the union, a first floor connection to Barnard Hall, and a third floor entrance from the open roof of Barnard. That open roof deck was one of the perks of living in BIS, along with a short hike to classes.


  6. I lived in Ward Hall in the fall of 1971, the last semester the dorm was occupied. Ward was closed at the beginning of the next semester (spring 1972) and demolished along with Ricks Hall in the summer of 1974, making way for the “new student union.” If anyone has any photos of either the inside or outside of Ward or Ricks or the connecting room between the two dorms that they would be willing to share, I would be most appreciative.


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