College of Liberal Arts

University of Mississippi

Hall Histories: The story of Ventress

Ventress Hall has to be one of the most architecturally interesting buildings located on the University of Mississippi campus.

One of the University’s favorite icons, Ventress Hall has been depicted in art more than any of the other buildings combined.

With its rising spires and Romanesque arches, Ventress Hall looks more like a majestic castle than the home for the College of Liberal Arts.

One of the first buildings seen on tours, Ventress leaves a lasting impression upon the minds of incoming students.

Built in 1889, Ventress Hall was the first building on campus constructed to serve as a library. Chancellor Andrew Armstrong Kincannon oversaw the construction of another home for the University’s expanding collection of books and academic journals.

Over the years, Ventress Hall has served many purposes. Ventress has housed the Law School, the State Geological Survey, and the departments of geology and art.

 

Ventress Hall, among other buildings around the Circle, was also the location of an anti-desegregation riot during 1962. In 2008, these buildings were designated as National Historic Landmarks due to the protest that claimed two lives.

Ventress Hall was named after James Alexander Ventress, a Mississippi House of Representative who was the “Father of Ole Miss.”

Ventress was a wealthy antebellum planter from Wilkinson County, who in 1840 introduced the bill to begin the University of Mississippi.

The beautiful Victorian began to be referred to as “Ventress Hall” starting in 1985.

Although it has a whimsical and quirky design on the outside, the inside paints a far more somber picture.

One of the most striking features in Ventress is the large, stained glass window commemorating the University Grays, a Confederate unit from the Civil War era.

The unit was made up entirely by Ole Miss students — none of whom ever returned from the Battle of Gettysburg.

The 100 percent casualty rate gives a chilling spin to the picturesque building. The hauntingly beautiful glass window depicts Confederate Grays heading off to the war, memorializing the young lives lost in the Confederate war effort.

 

Another historical aspect of the building is the signatures.

Back when Ventress was a library, a Confederate veteran signed his name and unit on the interior portion of one of the soaring turrets.

Since then, signatures of generations of students are still visible upon that wall. Although not as easily accessible as it used to be, students still attempt to join the ranks every year, creating a time capsule within the turret.

With its many strong historical ties and incredible architecture, Ventress Hall is undoubtedly one of the University’s most distinctive buildings. Accessible to the public, the staff is generally happy to talk more about the history of this grand structure and give tours to curious students.

from the DM