Council of Independent Colleges Historic Campus Architecture Project


Old Morrison

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Institution Name: Transylvania University
Original/Historic Place Name: Morrison College
Location on Campus: 300 N. Broadway
Date(s) of Construction:
ca. 1830-1834original construction Shryock, Gideon
1969-1971interior reconstruction
Designer: Gideon Shryock
Type of Place: Individual building
Style: Greek revival (Glossary)
Significance: architecture, education, history
Narrative: see below
References: see below
Foundation: stone
Walls: brick
ca. 1834academic department building
ca. 1861-65other (Union and Confederate hospital)
ca. 2004-present (2006)administration

Old Morrison, Transylvania University's historic administration building, remains the central symbol of the University. It also appears on the official seal of the Lexington-Fayette Urban County Government. It was designed by famed Kentucky architect Gideon Shryock and is considered one of the finest examples of Greek revival architecture in the country. During its long history as Transylvania's main building, Old Morrison has served several roles: administration building, classroom building, chapel, and hospital and prison to both Union and Confederate troops.

The design for Old Morrison was produced by Giddeon Shryock, who was to become known as one of America's most talented architects in the Greek Revival style. Already at the age of twenty-seven, Shryock had become famous throughout Kentucky for his capitol building at Frankfort (1825-1827). Construction on Old Morrison was begun in 1831 and after various delays, among them an outbreak of cholera in Lexington, was completed in 1834. It is the oldest extant building on campus (excepting a log cabin which pre-dates the school).

After a fire in 1969, which completely gutted the interior, alumni and friends of the university aided in restoring the building so that it appears much as it did when originally dedicated in 1833. In 1966, Old Morrison was designated a National Register Historic Landmark.


Dober, Richard P. Campus Design. New York: John Wiley, 1992.

Dober, Richard P. Campus Planning. New York: Reinhold Publishing Corp., 1963. Reprint, Ann Arbor, MI: Society for College and University Planning, 1996.

Hamlin, Talbot. Greek Revival Architecture in America. London, New York: Oxford University Press, 1944.

Morrison College [Transylvania University]. Historic American Buildings Survey report and photographs. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of the Interior/ National Park Service, n.d.

Newcomb, Rexford. Architecture in Old Kentucky. Urbana, IL: University of Illinois Press, 1953.

Rettig, Polly M., and Frank B. Sarles. Old Morrison, Transylvania College. National Register of Historic Places designation report. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of the Interior/ National Park Service, 1966.

Turner, Paul Venable. Campus: An American Planning Tradition. New York: Architectural History Foundation; Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1984.

Wright, John D. Transylvania, Tutor to the West. Rev. ed. Lexington, KY: University Press of Kentucky, 1980.


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Last update: November 2006