Then & Now: Buildings of Hampden-Sydney College

The exhibition Then & Now: Buildings of Hampden-Sydney College opened on Tuesday, February 13th, at the Atkinson Museum on the Hampden-Sydney campus and will remain on view through March 17th.

Cushing Hall 1887
Cushing Hall, 1887

The exhibit features historic photographs of the buildings of Hampden-Sydney College compared to recent photographs from the same view.  The passage of time is easily evident in the changing facades of the buildings and the grounds around them.  At the same time, seeing the photographs, some more than 150 years old, allows viewers to feel part of the great traditions in those buildings.  Also included are buildings no longer in existence that were once a vital part of the campus.  Why did they disappear from the campus?  How does their absence elevate those that have survived the centuries?

Cushing Hall is the oldest four-story dormitory in the country still in use as a residence hall.  Construction began in 1822; the east wing and center section were completed by 1824, and the west section by 1833.  It almost entirely replaced all the older buildings on the campus and was called "the College" until the early twentieth century, when it was named Cushing Hall in honor of the College's seventh president, Jonathan P. Cushing. Among the quotations on display ...

"At the mid-winter celebration of the Literary Societies we promenaded with the ladies in the Society Halls on the top floor of the college building [Cushing Hall].  These halls were well kept and were our pride.  The Societies were secret, with considerable rivalry.  Here the young orators and budding preachers began their oratory... At one of the mid-winter celebrations, the Union boys secretly fixed up their hall with handsome new curtains, much to the chagrin of the Phips."

Randolph Bryan Grinnan, 1879, "Hampden-Sydney College, 1876-1878," The Record of the Hampden-Sydney Alumni Association, April, 1939, p. 6.

Venable Hall, begun in 1824 and finished (in three phases) by 1833, was the original home of the Union Theological Seminary, founded here in 1823.  When the Seminary moved to Richmond in 1898, Major Richard Venable, Hampden-Sydney Class of 1857, bought its buildings for $10,000 and gave them to the College, doubling the size of the campus.  Named in his honor, Venable Hall is now a residence hall and contains the Parents & Friends Lounge, the former Seminary chapel.

The northern portion of Graham Hall was built in 1833 as a house for President Jonathan P. Cushing.  The traditions of the campus include the unverified story that the house was partly constructed with bricks and timbers from the Old College building of 1776, and that it burned while under construction.  

Completed in 1860, College Church was built in ninety days. The third building to be used by the Presbyterian congregation at Hampden-Sydney College, it was designed by a member of the Seminary faculty and a pastor of the church, Robert Lewis Dabney.

The last of the Seminary buildings constructed at Hampden-Sydney, the Brown Memorial Library was completed in 1880.  It was designed by E. G. Lynde and built at a cost of $16,000.  The library was renamed Winston Hall after its transfer to Hampden-Sydney College.

Morton Hall was named for Captain John Morton, who was among the original trustees of the College in 1775.  One of his descendants gave almost $80,000 to fund its construction.  Students began using the building in February 1937. 

"There are 18 class-rooms, numerous offices, toilets for students and faculty, elaborate heating, lighting, and ventilating arrangements.  Every prospect pleases and only man lacks sense!  'Wisdom hath fled to brutish beasts and men have lost their reason.'"

Dr. W. H. Whiting in a letter dated March 11, 1937, scorning the luxurious appointments of Morton Hall compared to those in McIlwaine.

The exhibit is free and open to the public during the Museum's regular visiting hours: Tuesday through Friday, 12:30 - 5 PM.  For more information on the exhibition, please contact Angie Way, Director of the Museum, at (434) 223-6134.