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[graphic] Old Morrison, Transylvania College
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[photo] Old Morrison, Transylvania College
Photograph by Eric Thomason, courtesy of the Blue Grass Trust for Historic Preservation
Old Morrison, Transylvania College is located on the campus of Transylvania University. Kentucky architect Gideon Shryock, the father of Greek Revival architecture in Kentucky, designed and oversaw construction of the building, now a National Historic Landmark. Shryock is also responsible for the design of the Old State Capitol in Frankfort as well as the Arkansas State Capitol building. The building was completed in 1834 following the destruction of the earlier Transylvania main building by fire in 1829. In his will, Colonel James Morrison bequeathed a sum of $40,000-$50,000 to the University for the purpose of constructing a new building with Henry Clay as the executor of his will. Typical of Greek Revival architecture, the facade of Old Morrison is graced by six large Doric columns as well as a pair of large antepodia that flank the front, main steps. In its early days Morrison Hall held a two-story chapel with balconies, the academic and law departments, the school library, and a variety of classrooms. The building also holds the crypts of two of Transylvania's esteemed faculty: botanist Constantine Samuel Rafinesque and St. Saveur Francois Bonfils.

In 1780, an act by the Commonwealth of Virginia Legislature set aside 8,000 acres of confiscated British lands in the County of Kentucky for "a public school or seminary of learning." A charter for Transylvania College was granted by the Legislature three years later, the first educational institution west of the Alleghenies. At the height of it influence, during the first quarter of the 19th century, Transylvania rivaled both Harvard and Yale. It was one of the leading universities in the country in terms of enrollment, faculty, and resources for medical education under the presidency of Horace Holley. Many distinguished men studied at Transylvania including Jefferson Davis, Albert Sidney Johnston, John Hunt Morgan, Stephen Austin, Cassius Clay, John Cabell Breckinridge, and many others.

During the Civil War, Transylvania was closed and Morrison College, along with other buildings on the campus, was commandeered for use as an army hospital, first by General Nelson of the Union Army and later by General Smith of the Confederate forces. From 1865 until 1908 the campus was home to a college of law, a commercial college, and a seminary, as well as the liberal arts college. The university has remained a liberal arts college since 1915 and has seen a major growth during the last few decades. Old Morrison was restored to its 1834 appearance following an extensive renovation in 1961. Unfortunately, the building was gutted by fire in 1969 and a second restoration was undertaken, which included further interior renovation to provide more administrative space. The building still holds the administrative offices of the university and is open to the public year round.

Old Morrison, Transylvania College, a National Historic Landmark, is located on the campus of Transylvania University at 300 North Broadway. Visit the website of Transylvania University for further information.

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