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 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.
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:
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.
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.