Blue Mountain College
Blue Mountain College is a sectarian college in the eponymously named community in northeast Mississippi. It is just about an hour and a half drive outside of Memphis. Despite it being fairly close to my home, I had not been there until this visit. I was passing through town on the last day of November this year and made a quick stop to take some photos. It was surprisingly warm for such a late date and the bright day was perfect for taking a few quick snapshots. The college is just two years shy of its sesquicentennial, and I hope they have a grand celebration when 2023 comes.
Blue Mountain was founded by Mark Perrin Lowrey, a Baptist Preacher and former General in the Confederate Army (he had previously served in the U.S. Army). His service in Confederate Army was unusual as he was vocally against slavery and reluctant to join the rebellion. He did so in the end as he felt that secession by vote was done in a fashion consistent with founding of the U.S. and therefore legal. The Union attempting to maintain forces and supply Fort Sumter was thus in his eyes an unlawful act. Lowrey was born in Tennessee but moved to Mississippi where he served as a preacher for the Southern Baptist Convention. He would go on to serve as president of the Convention from 1868 to 1877. He would also serve on the Board of Trustees for both the University of Mississippi and Mississippi College. Feeling that educational opportunities for women in the state were lacking, he decided to create a school for women. This was remarkable given the era and the fact that Lowrey, the son of immigrants, had no formal education himself. He acquired a hillside farm called the Brougher Place in Tippah County for the site of the school. The college was founded as the Blue Mountain Female Institute on September 12, 1873. It opened with fifty students. Lowrey would serve as the first president and one of only four faculty when the school opened. The college officially changed its name to Blue Mountain College in 1876. His tenure as president would continue until his untimely death at age 57 in 1885. He was transferring trains on his way to New Orleans with faculty and students from the college when he collapsed and died of an apparent heart attack.
At the time of his death, enrollment had increased to 148 students. His will stipulated that the college would remain in the family and dedicated to the education of women. He was followed in the presidency by two of his sons and his grandson (W.T. Lowrey, B.G. Lowrey, and Lawrence T. Lowrey respectively). His daughter Modena Lowrey Berry would also work at the school eventually rising to become Vice President. Her tenure lasted a remarkable sixty-one years from 1873 to 1934.
The family ceded control of the college to the Mississippi Baptist Convention in 1920. The college would gain accreditation by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools in 1927. Although a training program in church work for men would begin at Blue Mountain in 1957, the institution did not formally admit men until 2006. Today, Blue Mountain enrolls just over 950 students nearly all at the undergraduate level. The college offers twenty-four undergraduate and four master's degrees.
First up is the Lawrence T. Lowrey Administration Building. Named for the former president and grandson of the college's founder and first president, the building was completed in 1928. Lowrey was designed by architect James Manly Spain who was a prolific Mississippi architect. He was a two-time alumnus of Mississippi College and completed his architectural training at Columbia University. In addition to Lowrey, he designed other collegiate buildings across the state including Cain Hall (1926), Denton Gym (1937), and Central Dormitory (1937) at the Hinds Community College, McDaniel Hall (the first Administration Building at Holmes Community College in 1938), and Weathersby Hall (1947) at the University of Southern Mississippi (since razed in 2006).
The Colonial Revival building has a familiar feel to it. Indeed, if you look back through the archives of this blog, you will see that it closely resembles contemporaries in the administration building category of other regional institutions including Lane College, the University of Memphis, and the University of Memphis Lambuth. The building stands midway up the hillside upon which the college sits and has no buildings in front of it. Thus, what appears to my untrained eye as the largest building on campus has a commanding view of the surrounding area. The walkway and steps leading to the front of the building were a gift of the class of 1969. As can be seen in the sixth photo, the entryway was renovated in 2015 courtesy of a gift of the class of 1965. In addition to offices, the building has a large chapel/lecture hall which was occupied during my visit. The room is called the Modena Lowrey Berry Auditorium and seats 876. The last three photos were taken inside the front doors. The building was decorated for the impending Christmas holiday.
The first two photos below are of Guyton Library. Guyton has holdings of over 80,000 and a large collection of materials from General Lowrey. The library is named for Dr. and Mrs. David E. Guyton, both of whom taught at Blue Mountain. The library was completed in 1957. Next door to Guyton is Garrett Hall seen in the last photo. The building houses fine arts. Garrett was designed by architect Dudley C. White and built by the Walter L. Perry Construction firm from Philadelphia, MS. It was completed in 1950. Perry Construction has been involved in many college and university buildings throughout Mississippi including Jackson Hall at East Central Community College (1928), and the Mary Buie-Kate Skipwith Museum (1938), Weir Memorial Building (1939), and the Physics Building (Lewis Hall, 1939) at the University of Mississippi.
Next up is the Student Union Building, or SUB, seen in the first three photos below. The SUB was designed by Flowood, MS based architectural firm JH&H. The building opened in 1970 and at the time was called the Pascal Student Union. I was unable to find out who for whom it is named but it appears the Pascal name has been dropped as the name does not appear on the building nor on any Blue Mountain College webpage. The firm has designed dozens of buildings for colleges and universities across Mississippi. The 15,000 square foot building is one of two structures on campus designed by the firm (I did not photograph the other, a men’s dorm).
The Ray Dining Hall, seen below in photos four and five, is the main food services location on campus (I believe you can get food in the SUB as well). The sixth photo is Tyler Gym and finally a photo of tennis courts which sit adjacent to the gym. The college athletic teams are called the "Toppers", as in hilltoppers, and their mascot seen here is a mountain goat seen on the banner in the last photo. The college has a sports complex near campus, but I didn't have the time to visit on this trip. As was the case with the SUB, I was unable to find out any information about the naming of these buildings.
The following set are three of the four residence halls on campus. The first photo below is Cockroft Hall, a men’s residence hall on campus. The building sits adjacent to the Ray Dining Hall and very close to the Lowrey Administration Building. I was not able to find out anything about the name. Whitfield Hall is a dormitory for women which was completed in 1928. The building was designed by architect Walter R. Nelson. Nelson also designed the now razed Whitfield Dining Hall on the Blue Mountain campus. Despite two buildings carrying the Whitfield moniker, I was not able to find out anything about the name. Last, we have a photo of the Jennie Stevens Residence Hall, another dorm for women. The building was constructed in 1950. I could not find out anything about Jennie Stevens.
The following photos are of the gate on the southeast side of the campus. The street leads past the SUB and the front of the Lowrey Administration Building. I love the quotes on the plaques which are on the entry side (first photo) and exit side (second photo) of the gate. It is reminiscent to the gate at the University of Memphis Lambuth (see my earlier post here). The sign in the last photo is north of this gate (the Lowrey Administration Building can be seen in the distance).
A stream runs through campus and it has its own pond as seen in the first three photos. There is a fountain about halfway up the hillside of the campus, see here in the fourth photo. A walkway, courtesy of the class of 1966, extends from the area of the fountain westward up the hill.
The next two photos are of the Palmer-Donnell House which houses the alumni association and serves as a welcome center. The house is named for Alonzo “Lon” Donnell and Charlotte “Lottie” Palmer-Donnell, who according to a news story I found online were both supporters of the college. I believe Lon worked there, although I am not certain of it. I believe that Lottie’s father, Charles F. Palmer, was the original owner of the house although I could be mistaken. An historic photo of the house may be found on a memorial page to him (see here).
Next is the Lowrey Memorial Baptist Church which opened in 1908. It was designed by the R. H. Hunt and Company architectural firm. Hunt and Company’s headquarters were in Chattanooga, TN, but they also maintained offices in Jackson, MS, and Dallas, TX. Hunt designed many structures and quite a few of them for colleges and universities among them Millsaps College, Mississippi College, Mississippi State University, the University of Mississippi, and the University of Southern Mississippi.
We close with Blue Mountain's version of the ever popular lamppost sign.
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