Council of Independent Colleges Historic Campus Architecture Project


Domain of the University of the South

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Institution Name: University of the South
Original/Historic Place Name: Domain of the University of the South
Location on Campus: the entire 10,000 acre landholding of the university
Date(s) of Construction and Designer(s):
1858founding Unknown
Type of Place: Building group
Style(s) of majority of buildings: Other:
Style(s) of minority of buildings: Other: Tudor revival
Building group type: Informal; Irregular; Quadrangle; Modern; Other: the Domain contains an unusual array of heritage resources. It is a combination of unimproved and managed forest, residential and commercial town properties and landscapes, and a campus that has seen several different master plan processes with priorities that have shifted as the institution has developed. An unusually large component of the University property, campus, and landscape is that of hundreds of archaeological resources distributed over the 10,000 acre campus. The original plan and landscape design "envisioned, mapped, and set in motion by the founding bishops" was depicted for the dedication ceremony and laying of the cornerstone in an 1860 map which documented existing structures, roads and features, as well as the proposed main building (the design for which had been selected in an architectural competition) and other academic structures. In 1890, Silas McBee prepared a design for completion of the central quadrangle. In 1945 the University engaged the Olmsted Brothers firm to prepare a master plan and landscape design. Architect Carl Rust Parker, the chief designer, produced more than 70 drafts of the plan from 1945 to 1947. The next master plans were produced by the faculty in 1979 and the Dober firm in 1989. A Domain 2020 campus planning initiative was conducted from 1995 to 1999. The Domain 2020 committee comprised of administrators, campus managers, regents and trustees, faculty, and students provided an unusually broad forum for the integration of cultural and natural resource and academic concerns in the planning process. The current master plan was prepared by MacLachlan, Cornelius & Filoni of Pittsburgh and was adopted in 2001.
Relationship to landscape:
none specified
Ideas associated with building group:
none specified
pre- 1858other (prehistoric Native American use, Trail of Tears, homesteading, historic room and board as Stage Coach Inn, railroad, mining and quarrying, Civil War encampments and battlefields)
ca. 1858-present (2007)master plan (campus: education, research, religious, forest and wildlife management, commercial and residential uses, recreation)

Significance: architecture, culture, education, engineering, history, landscape, religion
Landmark designation:
Narrative: see below
References: see below

The University of the South (Sewanee) owns and occupies a Domain of 10,000 acres (15.6 square miles) atop the southern portion of the Cumberland Plateau in south central Tennessee. One of the largest contiguous campuses managed as an educational resource in the United States, it contains an unusually comprehensive and rich array of natural and cultural resources. The Domain includes not only the University campus, but also parks, forests, and the unincorporated town of Sewanee's residential areas and businesses. The University, its Board of Regents and Board of Trustees have a higher level of authority, control, and responsibility over their campus and community than almost any other in the United States. The Domain is responsible for its own utilities and fire and police protection; it pays no taxes to the state. The University owns all property, including that occupied by private homes and businesses in the Sewanee community, and operates the local government. Renewable leaseholds, originally for ninety-nine years but now for thirty-three years, form the mosaic of property within the Domain.

Among institutions of higher learning in the United States, Sewanee is one of the most richly-endowed with evidence of the American past, and it may have no parallel in the quantity, density, and diversity of evidence from the prehistoric and proto-historic periods. An ongoing archaeological and historical inventory of the Domain, initiated in 1994, has already documented more than 300 archaeological and historical resources representing the entire 10,000-year sweep of pre-history, the Civil War, and the early years of the University. These resources include: prehistoric Native American habitation sites (open air, cave, and rock shelters) occupied almost continuously from 10,000 B.C. to 1500 A.D.; prehistoric rock art sites; Trail of Tears routes; Civil War battlefield and encampment sites of both armies; nineteenth and twentieth century industrial and residential sites; and sites containing the archaeological record of early University of the South buildings. Examples of the latter include: the University cornerstone (laid in 1860 and dynamited by Union troops in 1863); the log cabins of the Episcopal bishop founders which were burned at the start of the Civil War in 1861; the early academic buildings; and the first chapel.

The University's standing built environment consists of more than one hundred significant historic structures and is entirely post-Civil War, with the exception of one antebellum log cabin. Following the war, Sewanee, with Washington and Lee University, was one of the principal bastions of the Lost Cause of the Confederacy social movement. Early University buildings are almost exclusively in the Gothic Revival style constructed from native sandstone with limestone trim, both quarried from the Domain. Architects of these early buildings include: H. Hudson Holly (St. Luke's Hall, 1879); W.H. Cusack (Thompson Union/Chemical and Philosophical Hall, 1883); Halsey Wood (Convocation Hall and Breslin Tower, 1886); Silas Beebe and A.M. Nixon (Walsh Hall, 1890); R.H. Hunt (Quintard Hall, 1900); C.C. Haight (St. Luke's Chapel, 1904); and Ed Tilton (Carnegie Hall, 1912). Unifying the exuberant eclecticism of the Sewanee expression of the Collegiate Gothic style is the 125-year old tradition of using sandstone cut from the bluffs of the University Domain and set by four generations of local stonemasons (see Bowman, Sewanee in Stone, 2003). In and around the University, the town of Sewanee was built in a rich array of Late Victorian vernacular styles, including Queen Anne, Carpenter Gothic, and Eastlake.

A campus heritage preservation initiative was begun in 1994, with the establishment of the Sewanee Preservation Program in the Department of Anthropology. With active student participation, this program has become the voice of historic preservation advocacy and has undertaken the following projects: inventories of archaeological and historic resources; site and structure protection, stabilization, and rehabilitation; historic preservation policy development; surveys and evaluations performed in advance of University site selections; and campus and forest management and operations. There is also an intercollegiate conference and student exchange program on campus heritage preservation.

Altogether, the unique archaeological, historical, and architectural significance of the Domain of the University of the South lies in the fact that this area preserves a microcosm of the entire sweep of American prehistory and history in a unitary landscape owned and managed by a permanent educational institution dedicated to its preservation and enlightened use in the teaching curriculum and research in many disciplines, including anthropology, history, economics, philosophy, psychology, geology, forestry, and environmental studies.

I. Bibliographic sources:

Bowman, David. Sewanee in Stone. Sewanee, TN: Proctors Hall Press, 2003.

Chitty, Arthur Ben. Reconstruction at Sewanee: The Founding of the University of the South and its First Administration, 1857-1872. Memphis, TN: LeMoyne Press, 1970.

Chitty, Arthur Ben, and Elizabeth N. Chitty. Sewanee Sampler. Sewanee, TN: Proctors Hall Press, 1978.

University of the South collection of master plans (1860, 1890, 1947, 1979, 1989, 1999, and 2001). Sewanee Preservation Program Cultural Resources Management Reports and GIS/Archive. University of the South, Sewanee, TN.

Cram, Ralph Adams. "College and University Chapels." Architectural Forum 44 (June 1926): 367-72.

Green, Ely. Ely: An Autobiography. 1913. Reprint, Athens, GA: University of Georgia Press, 1990.

Makris, Patricia Short. The Other Side of Sewanee. Ozark, MO: Dogwood Printing, 1997.

Report on the University of the South Land Use Study. Sewanee, TN: University of the South, 1979.

"University of the South Campus." National Register nomination report (1980). University of the South, Sewanee, TN.

Van Der Werf, M. "The Almighty Sawbuck: Colleges Struggle to Balance Interests over their Forested Lands." Chronicle of Higher Education, September 29, 2000, A36-A38.

Schuyler, Montgomery. "The Architecture of American Colleges VIII. The Southern Colleges." Architectural Record 30 (July 1911): 57-84.

II. Location of other data:
University: Library, Special Collections, Facilities Management Office

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