FINDING OLD COLLEGE
A GEOPHYSICAL SEARCH FOR THE ORIGINAL HAMPDEN-SYDNEY COLLEGE BUILDINGS BY CHARLES E. PEARSON
n September 1, 1775, a notice appeared in the Williamsburg Virginia Gazette about the recently established Hampden-Sidney Academy, soon to become Hampden-Sydney College. It notes that construction on the Academy’s first buildings—a smoke house, a dwelling and kitchen for the president, and an academic building known as the “Academy House” or simply “the College”— was proceeding “with the greatest Expedition.” Within two years of the College’s founding, additional buildings were authorized and soon under construction, including a steward’s house, kitchen, and student housing, the latter built by private citizens. Almost a dozen principal buildings formed the Hampden-Sydney campus by the end of the 18th century, in addition to an unknown
number of outbuildings and dependencies like privies, dairies, stables, and, possibly, slaves’ quarters. All of the buildings stood on a ridge of high land along the west side of what is now College Road, immediately opposite the present football field—the highest piece of land within the 98 acres owned by the College at that time. Although the buildings served Hampden-Sydney for the first four decades of its existence, by 1817 construction had shifted to the south and, by the 1840s, most of the original buildings had fallen into ruin or been dismantled. 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 remains.
THE RECORD of HAMPDEN-SYDNEY COLLEGE SPRING 2018