History is alive at H-SC. In continuous operation since November 10, 1775, Hampden-Sydney is the tenth oldest college in the United States. Here, the past meets the present as we prepare students for not just successful careers, but successful lives in the 21st century.

Since before the American Revolution, Hampden-Sydney College has been transforming young men into the best possible versions of themselves, with the moral strength and intellectual capacity to be leaders in the workplace and in their communities. Our mission remains unchanged: To form good men and good citizens in an atmosphere of sound learning.

Hampden-Sydney, one of the oldest colleges in the United States, is the last American college founded in British Colonial America, and has remained in continuous operation since November 10, 1775. Located on a 1,300-acre campus in Virginia's beautiful Southside, the campus' central portion has been designated a National Historic Preservation Zone. It includes Cushing Hall (1822-1833), originally called New College, and Venable Hall (1825-1830), originally Union Theological Seminary. Hampden-Sydney's charter trustees included Patrick Henry and James Madison; William Henry Harrison was a member of the class of 1791. The College is part of the Road to Revolution Heritage Trail and the Civil Rights in Education Trail.

Thanks to legendary codes of honor and conduct, a celebrated 40-year old rhetoric program, and a contemporary liberal arts education featuring supportive, yet exacting faculty, Hampden-Sydney men graduate with the courage to do what is right, the ability to express themselves confidently, and the skill to develop creative solutions for complex problems. In small classes, and within a lasting brotherhood, Hampden-Sydney men embrace challenges in and out of the classroom, learn to lead by assuming responsibility, and develop the self-awareness necessary for forging unique paths. Ninety-four percent of Hampden-Sydney graduates complete their degree in four years, and the College's alumni network has been ranked among the strongest in the country.

It is a treasured thing for a youth to have a special place in which to become a man—a beautiful place where honor is a virtue, civility a habit, and learning a goal.

To Manner Born, To Manners Bred: A Hip-pocket Guide to Etiquette for the Hampden-Sydney Man, by Thomas H. Shomo '69
  • James Madison and Patrick Henry portraits

    Patrick Henry and James Madison were among Hampden-Sydney's first Trustees.

  • Cushing Hall, 1887, Hampden-Sydney College

    Pictured here in 1887, Cushing Hall is the oldest continuously used 4-story dormitory in the United States. ca 1822

  • Venable Hall, 1890, Hampden-Sydney College

    Pictured here in 1890, Venable Hall was originally the home of Union Theological Seminary. ca 1824

  • Hampden-Sydney College Football team, 1904

    The Hampden-Sydney Tiger football team in 1904

  • Hampden-Sydney College "birthplace" building being moved to campus

    Built by Nathaniel Venable in 1756 at his Slate Hill plantation, "the birthplace" is the office where the meeting to form Hampden-Sydney College was held. It was moved to the Hampden-Sydney College campus in 1944.

  • Hampden-Sydney College's iconic bell tower

    Dedicated in 1934, Hampden-Sydney College's iconic Watkins Bell Tower still rings students to class.

  • William Henry Harrison, H-SC Class of 1791

    William Henry Harrison, Hampden-Sydney College Class of 1791, was President of the United States from March 4, 1841 until his death on April 4, 1841.

First advertisement for "Hampden-Sidney"

The first advertisement for the College appeared in Williamsburg's Virginia Gazette; it promised that classes would begin on 10 November 1775:

The first advertisement for the College ("Hampden-Sidney") appeared in Williamsburg's Virginia Gazette"An Academy"

Prince Edward, Sept 1, 1775

"By the generous exertions of several Gentlemen in this and some of the neighbouring Counties, very large contributions have lately been made for erecting and supporting a public Academy near the Courthouse in this County. Their zeal for the interests of Learning and Virtue has met with such success, that they were enabled to let the Buildings in March left to several Undertakers, who are proceeding in their Work with the greatest Expedition. A very valuable library of the best Writers, both ancient and modern on most Parts of Science and polite Literature, is already procured; with Part of an Apparatus to facilitate the Studies of the Mathematicks and Natural Philosophy, which we expect in a short Time to render complete.

The Academy will certainly be opened on the 10th of next November. It is to be distinguished by the name Hampden-Sidney, and will be subject to the Visitation of 12 Gentlemen of Character and Influence in their respective Counties; the immediate and active Members being chiefly of the Church of England. The Number of Visitors and Trustees will probably be increased as soon as the Distractions of the Times shall so far cease as to enable its Patrons to enlarge its Foundations.

The Students will all board and study under the same Roof, provided for by a common Steward, except such as choose to take their Boarding in the Country. The rates, at the utmost, will not exceed 10£. Currency per Annum to the steward and 4£ Tuition Money; 20 shillings of this to be always paid at Entrance.

The system of Education will resemble that which is adopted in the College of New Jersey; save, that a more particular Attention shall be paid to the Cultivation of the English Language than is usually done in Places of public Education. Three Masters and Professors are ready to enter in November, and as many more may be easily procured as the increased Number of Students may at any Time hereafter require. And our Prospects at present are so extremely flattering that it is probable we shall be obliged to procure two Professors more before the Expiration of the Year.

The Public may rest assured that the whole shall be conducted on the most catholic Plan. Parents, of every Denomination, may be at full Liberty to require their Children to attend on any Mode of Worship which either Custom or Conscience has rendered most agreeable to them. For our Fidelity, in every Respect, we are cheerfully willing to pledge our Reputation to the Public; which may be more relied on, because our whole Success depends upon their favourable Opinion. Our Character and Interest, therefore, being at Stake, furnish a strong Security for our avoiding all Party Instigations; and our Care to form good men, and good Citizens, on the common and universal Principles of Morality, distinguished from the narrow Tenets which form the Complexion of a Sect; and for our assiduity in the whole Circle of Education."
~Samuel S. Smith

P.S. The principal Building of the Academy not being yet completed, those Gentlemen who desire their Children to enter immediately will be obliged to take Lodgings for them in the Neighbourhood, during the Winter Season; which may be done in Houses sufficiently convenient, on very reasonable Terms.

"A Portal Through Time"

"One of only three four-year, all-men's liberal arts colleges in the nation, Hampden-Sydney College's secluded campus is located just a few miles from the more developed town of Farmville. It is also the oldest private charter college in the Southern U.S., the 10th oldest college in America, and the last college founded before the start of the American Revolution. The school enrolls about 1,100 students on average, and the campus has expanded since its establishment in 1775 from 100 acres to 1,300 acres of lush lands surrounded by scenic woodlands. With a noteworthy presence in the Civil War and part of the campus listed on the National Register of Historic Places, the school has a long, interesting history which is evident in the buildings. Two of the brick structures, Cushing Hall (built in 1822) and Venable Hall (1825), provide examples of Hampden-Sydney's historic significance in architecture, but the real beauty at the college lies in the manicured, old-world landscape and picturesque grounds. A walk through Hampden-Sydney College acts as a portal through time, to an age where genteel southern tradition and untouched countryside were the rule rather than the exception." — Virginia Travel Blog

Virginia Travel Blog

"Vanished Buildings of H-SC"

from The Record

Most of the brick-and-mortar buildings that rose to replace the Old College of 1775 have remained stubbornly resilient in their refusal to fall. Cushing, Venable, Graham, and others were the products of a massive fundraising effort during the 1820s, and through the years thousands of students, faculty, and staff have walked through their seemingly timeless halls during their lives at Hampden-Sydney.

But a handful of these structures succumbed to the great enemies of architectural endurance. Fire, deterioration, and the wrecking ball-and likely some criminal malfeasance-felled a few of these buildings. Although little remains beyond a few pictures and sketches, with a bit of digging in the College archives and with a few words from some of the old-timers around campus, we can still catch a glimpse of Hampden-Sydney as she once stood.

Read the entire feature story in The Spring 2016 Record of Hampden-Sydney.

Vanished Buildings of H-SC

"Finding Old College"

from The Record

Although the original college buildings served Hampden-Sydney for the first four decades of its existence, by the 1840s, most of them had fallen into ruin. This area of the original campus came to be known as "Old College," but over time the locations of those first structures were lost to memory. Today, not a single building from the 18th-century College stands.

Efforts are now being made to study and preserve the archaeological remains by using cutting-edge technology to survey the area. Funded in part by the S. Mason and Lulu Cole Charitable Trust, the project is a cooperative effort between local archaeologists, the Esther T. Atkinson Museum, and the Hampden-Sydney College history department.

Read the entire feature story in The Spring 2018 Record of Hampden-Sydney.

Finding Old College

Interactive Campus Map

Visit Hampden-Sydney's interactive campus map and view the histories of many of the campus buildings still standing today.

Interactive Campus Map


Summary History of Hampden-Sydney College

Are you a history buff and want to know more about the history and founding of Hampden-Sydney College? Download this document!

History of H-SC (pdf)

The Esther T. Atkinson Museum

The Museum supports the College's mission by collecting, preserving and interpreting objects that enhance its educational offerings and promote its history.