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.
Old Morrison, Transylvania College|
by Eric Thomason, courtesy of the Blue Grass Trust for Historic Preservation
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.