Council of Independent Colleges Historic Campus Architecture Project


Forbes Administration Building and Faculty Annex Building

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Institution Name: Thomas University
Original/Historic Place Name: Manor House and Birdwood Plantation
Location on Campus: annex is service wing of Forbes home, of the Forbes Administration Building
Date(s) of Construction:
1932original construction Shepard & Stearns
Designer: Shepard and Stearns, Boston, MA
Type of Place: Individual building
Style: Colonial revival (Glossary)
Significance: architecture, history
Narrative: see below
References: see below
Foundation: concrete
Walls: lathe and plaster, except three rooms that are full length pine paneling; exterior walls are brick with wood trim
Roof: clay tile with copper ridges, gutters and flashing
ca. 1932private residence
ca. 2004-present (2006)administration

The current Forbes Administration Building is the former Manor House of the Birdwood Estate, a plantation and seasonal home to William Cameron Forbes. A grandson of Raplh Waldo Emerson, Forbes belonged to a wealthy and influential family, and was later a U.S. diplomat, serving as ambassador to Japan and Governor General of the Philippines.

Birdwood, built in 1932 by the Boston architectural firm of Shepard & Stearns in the then-popular Georgian revival style, was used by Forbes as a seasonal home and a place to practice and play polo in the winter. Forbes was a polo player of international caliber, and had on the grounds of Birdwood regulation and practice fields, as well as stables and a hospital for the horses. Numerous sportsmen, including General George Patton, played on Forbes' fields at Birdwood.

In 1950 members of the progressive Primitive Baptist Church purchased the Birdwood estate property to establish a denominational college. The college began classes in 1954, but from the beginning struggled to find enrollment in an atmosphere of limited support from the Primitive Baptist Church and the local community. Since 1976 the college has made the transition from a denominational school to a private college. The main house of the Birdwood estate serves as the administration building.

The entire Birdwood Plantation is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.


Thomas, Kenneth H., Jr. Birdwood [Thomas University]. National Register of Historic Places designation report. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of the Interior/National Park Service, 1986.


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Last update: November 2006