There’s just something about a Southern college campus. Perhaps it’s the quiet hush of a campus morning, the hopeful echo of well-worn halls, or the contagious heart-thump of a crisp stadium evening. Perhaps, however, the Southern college campus appeals to us because, at its core, it’s just the South in miniature, a condensed version of the land we love. It’s a perfect blend of old and new: thoughtful but not rushed, gracious but a bit headstrong, a little wild but always polite—and beautiful. Always beautiful. Here are some of our favorites.
- Elon University: Elon, North CarolinaElon University was designated a botanical garden in 2005 (photo courtesy of Elon University)Finding a well-landscaped Southern college may not be difficult, but finding one that is an official botanic garden? That may prove a little trickier. For one of the finest examples, head to the heart of North Carolina, where, tucked quietly among the gentle hills of the Piedmont, you’ll find Elon University. With an ample supply of quintessential collegiate architecture—red-brick exteriors, colonnaded facades—picture-perfect lakes and fountains, and flawlessly manicured flowers, trees, and plants, Elon University presents a seamless blend of aesthetics and education.
- University of the South: Sewanee, Tennessee Few universities—Southern or otherwise—can boast such stunning views as those found at The University of the South (photo courtesy of The University of the South)As with most things Southern, college campuses in the heart of Dixie are wont to indulge in a good old-fashioned, indulgent sprawl, but few can boast one as expansive as the University of the South. Perched atop the Cumberland Plateau, this thirteen thousand acre campus features well-weathered buildings faced with local stone and unparalleled views of the stunning Tennessee Valley. The main campus takes up a mere 1,000 of those acres, leaving ample space for students and visitors to stretch out in the natural splendor of the Appalachian wilderness. The University of the South was established in 1857 by a handful of Episcopal dioceses seeking to found a university “free of Northern influence” (photo courtesy of The University of the South) Though the six ton marble cornerstone that marked the University of the South’s
inception was blown up in 1863 by Union forces, a fragment was returned to the college and installed in the wall of All Saints Chapel (photo courtesy of The University of the South)
- University of Arkansas, Fayetteville, Arkansas The University of Arkansas’s “Old Main” was based on a design taken from the University of Illinois, though its towers are reversed. Legend has it that Union supporters switched the towers so the larger would point north (photo courtesy of The University of Arkansas)In 1875, the state of Arkansas began taking bids for the site of its flagship university, and though pecuniary considerations almost certainly came into play, we like to think that it’s the beauty of the Fayetteville hills that won them over. Sprung from a hilltop farm overlooking the Ozark Mountains, the University of Arkansas soon added its own, manmade beauty to the view. Old Main, a two-tower, Second Empire style building has served the university since 1875, rising as an elegant reflection of the area’s natural abundance with its sandstone foundation, limestone window sills, and Ozark-forest timber.The University of Arkansas was founded in 1871 atop a hilltop farm overlooking the Ozark Mountains, earning it the early nickname of “The Hill” (photo courtesy of The University of Arkansas)
- The University of Richmond, Richmond, VirginiaOne of the keys to the University of Richmond’s effortless cohesion is the fact that it has, for the most part, maintained the architectural integrity of design throughout the campus (photo courtesy of the University of Richmond)If Southerners know how to do anything right, it’s how to strike the perfect balance of well-mannered and wild. Such is the case with the University of Richmond. The campus grounds—designed by famed natural landscape architect Warren H. Manning—are less a dedication to the standard-issue axial teleological symmetry and more a reflection of the lush abundance of the Virginia hills: gentle slopes, towering pines, and quiet corners tucked among tangles of green. Boatwrigtht Memorial Library Bell Tower is a landmark of University of Richmond (photo courtesy of the University of Richmond)
- Flagler College, St. Augustine, Florida Henry Flagler used the Ponce de Leon hotel to showcase his love of art; murals cover vast expanses of the walls and ceilingsOaks and pines not your style? Colonnades too passe? Come down to St. Augustine’s Flagler College, where miles of pristine beaches, swaying palm trees, and Spanish Renaissance Revival are the name of the game. Established in 1868, the college is centered around the Ponce de Leon Hotel, an exquisitely wrought luxury hotel dating back to 1888. With an exterior faced in coquina stone and interior filled with Louis Comfort Tiffany pieces, impossibly opulent carved oak, and floor to ceiling murals, the Ponce de Leon is a stunning centerpiece to a stunning college.The Ponce de Leon Hotel, the centerpiece of Flagler College, was built by oil magnate Henry M. Flagler in 1888
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