There are few things more beautiful than a college campus in the South. From the peaks and valleys of Appalachia to the sandy shores of the Gulf, Southern colleges embody the very essence of the region: polished and polite, yet imbued with seersucker ease and sweet-tea charm that keep us coming back again and again.
Rather than attempt to name the most beautiful campus—parsing quad against chapel, library against stadium—we’ve opted to revel in the beauty en total, assembling our favorites here in a comprehensive celebration of that sanctum of sweet perfection, the Southern college campus.
- University of Alabama, Tuscaloosa, Alabama The President’s mansion is among the buildings that survived the Civil War and has been home to every one of the university’s presidents since 1841 (photo courtesy of Maggie Hammond)In the year 1818, the newly-formed Alabama Territory got a letter from Congress, officially approving their request to set aside a township to be used as a seminary of learning. Almost 200 years later, that crude institution carved from the Alabama wilderness has expanded to encompass just under 10,000 beautifully manicured acres. With a handful of buildings that managed to withstand the fiery passing of Union troops, an expansive arboretum, and a 115-foot bell tower with a 25-bell carillon, it’s easy to see why the University of Alabama is consistently named among the most beautiful campuses in the US.The University of Alabama’s Denny Chimes is one of the most recognizable landmarks on campus; the carillon boasts 25 cast bronze bells, the largest of which has a circumference of about 11 feet
In 1884, the University of Alabama’s Clark Hall was erected on the site once occupied by the old Lyceum, which was destroyed by Union troops
- John Brown University, Siloam Springs, Arkansas “It might be my privilege to have a part in the building of school that would turn the minds of youth back from this exaggerated concept of the value of book knowledge, to the realization that all this is valuable only as it becomes a background for, or the foundation under, the real things of life.” –John BrownIf ever there were proof that a school needn’t be big to impress, it is the 200-acre John Brown University. Tucked in the breathtaking splendor of the Arkansas Ozarks, this pint-sized campus is a seamlessly blended showcase of natural and manmade beauty. Many of the original buildings were constructed by the students themselves, part of evangelist John Brown’s vision of educating “heart, hand, and head,” and later additions, such as the picture-perfect Cathedral of the Ozarks, still radiate the ethos of simple beauty that guided the institution’s first days. The Cathedral of the Ozarks is one of the most recognizable buildings on John Brown University’s stunning campus
- Wake Forest University, Winston-Salem, North Carolina Though Wake Forest is situated in Winston-Salem, N.C., a culturally rich mid-size city in the Piedmont Triad area of one of the nation’s most progressive states, the University retains the charm of its southern roots.(Photo courtesy of Wake Forest University)Trust us, if you’re asked to conjure up a mental picture of the quintessential Southern college, Wake Forest is what will come to mind. With verdant quads, rows of stately-columned Neo-Georgian buildings, and rolling hills dappled with maple, magnolia, and oak-wrought shade, Wake Forest epitomizes the idyllic glow of campus magic, a fact made all the more impressive that the university’s footprint is a mere sixty years old. Though it was established in 1834, Wake Forest picked up its roots from its eponymous birthplace in North Carolina, and—at the behest of benefactors Charles and Mary Babcock—moved 100 miles west to Winston-Salem.With a host of maple, magnolia, oak, and cedar trees, the Wake Forest campus bursts into color each fall (photo courtesy of Wake Forest University)
Wake Forest’s campus epitomizes the Southern college (photo courtesy of Wake Forest University)
Snow transforms the Wake Forest campus into a silent wonderland (photo courtesy of Wake Forest University)
- Agnes Scott College, Decatur, GeorgiaThe quiet corners of Agnes Scott College have inspired many a creative mind, including Robert Frost, who made annual visits to the campus from 1945 until his death (photo courtesy of Agnes Scott College)Just outside the busy bustle of Atlanta, you’ll find a one-hundred-acre island of peaceful and polished charm. Despite its teacup proportions, Agnes Scott is a treasure trove of Collegiate-Gothic and Victorian buildings, perfectly-manicured lawns, and lush secret-garden corners. Thanks to the school’s blend of timeless grace and broad-spectrum appeal, Agnes Scott—along with the surrounding town—is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and has been the backdrop of over thirty film and television shoots.Agnes Scott’s stunning McCain Library houses more than 200,000 volumes (photo courtesy of Agnes Scott College)
Thanks to special grants from alumni, the Agnes Scott campus is beautifully manicured year-round (photo courtesy of Agnes Scott College)
- New College of Florida, Sarasota, Florida The New College of Florida is situated on the shores of Sarasota Bay (photo courtesy of the New College of Florida)Don’t be fooled into thinking that all Southern colleges are bound by whitewashed columns and magnolias; at the New College of Florida, palm trees, white sand, and gentle bay breezes are the name of the game. Located on the edge of the Sarasota Bay, this 110-acre campus is situated on the former estate of Charles Ringling of the Brothers’ Circus fame. The campus still uses a number of the entertainment tycoon’s palatial residences—think Santos Mahogany floors, marble fireplaces, and tiled terraces—alongside the college’s modern additions. Palm trees and white sand are the hallmarks of the New College of Florida campus (photo courtesy of the New College of Florida)
When the New College of Florida was established in 1960, a shovel-full of soil from Harvard University’s campus was mixed into the plot as a sign of the college’s dedication to educational excellence (photo courtesy of the New College of Florida)