Georgia’s Berry College, spread over an expansive campus of 27,000 acres, surrounded by miles of hiking trails, meadows, streams, mountains, and lakes, might seem like a destination right out of a fantasy world. With a legacy of over 119 years, the private liberal arts institution is in Rome, Georgia. Established as the Boys Industrial School in 1902 by Martha Berry, it has transformed into a college with multiple undergrad and masters’ opportunities in sciences, humanities, arts, social sciences, and even business and teacher education.
It is a college built on the freedom of sharing experience and expertise while learning from everyone while developing as a scholar and an individual of character. With its large campus at the heart of geographical beauties, it is currently the largest contiguous campus in the world. It is a place rich in cultural and built heritage while nurturing the minds of the future.
The History and the Legacy
Berry College had its inception on the 83-acres of farmland of Martha Berry. She noticed that many children in rural areas of the United States did not have access to either school or Sunday schools at church. She built four schools; one in her log cabin in Oak Hills, another at an abandoned church at Possum Trot, and others at two additional sites at Mount Alto and Foster’s Bend, all in an attempt to educate children who were academically able but economically poor. Soon, she concluded that to have an impact on the students, it was better to have them live within the school rather than their homes.
In 1902, the thought led to the establishment of Boys Industrial School, which later became the Mount Berry School for Boys. Her efforts and commitment towards the community and the children’s future attracted many promoters and trustees who helped with the new Mount Berry School for Girls in 1909 and a Berry Junior College in 1926.
The schools, since their establishment, worked on a simple premise; in an exchange of quality and accessible education, the students needed to work to run and maintain the school. This proved to be a significant and unique approach to students’ intellectual, personal, and social growth. The foundation also incorporated Christian ideals of inclusion and service, which encouraged people to think about their faith and beliefs while also being accepting and courteous to people of all faiths.
Though the current college does not affiliate with its religious roots, its essence remains true to Martha Berry’s vision, still enduring her age-old motto of “Not to be ministered unto, but to minister.”
The Architecture and the Heritage
On the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, the expansive and historical campus has remarkably varied architecture, from vernacular cottages to gothic squares to colonial revival and neoclassical style buildings. Every structure has its own distinct personality that reflects the era in which it was built. Many of the buildings on the campus such as the Log Cabin, Mountain campus, and the current Berry college building, were designed by Samual Inman Cooper’s firm, Cooper and Cooper, in a classical style of architecture.
On the same campus, exists the outbuildings of the nineteenth- and twentieth-century of Martha Berry’s home, Oak Hill. Apart from these historic structures, the history and heritage of Berry College can be still found on the walls of Possum Trot Church, where Martha Berry painted Bible verses for students; the Watermill, which still stands to depict the importance of self-sufficiency; and the simple cottages across the campus, reminding everyone of their humble beginnings.
Adding to the already diverse collection of architecture on campus are the brick buildings constructed by the students with their own bricks. When Henry Ford, an automotive pioneer and an early supporter of the Berry Foundation, bought a brick plant in Rome, students were taught how to make bricks and lay them on finished walls. Many structures on campus are a result of this vocational training, including the Moon Facility, a student center; Cook Building, a home and science department building; and Thomas Berry Hall, men’s dorm rooms.
From Hill Dining Hall to the House of Dreams, erected on top of Lavender Mountain to commemorate Berry College’s 25th anniversary, several stone buildings stand tall beside the students’ brick constructions, designed by Boston architects Coolidge and Carlson. The students helped the architects in construction, keeping the founding principle of Martha Berry alive; in exchange for quality education, the students needed to work to run and maintain the school.
On the eastern edges of Berry College’s architectural marvel campus lies the log cabins and wooden structures. One of the most famous being the rustic cabin named Roosevelt Cabin, after Theodore Roosevelt, the US President and another early supporter of the college, lunched there in 1910. Nothing could have provided a perfect juxtaposition to these humble structures than the Ford Buildings, an impressive quadrangle of Gothic Revival structures inspired by the likes of Oxford and Princeton University.
As the campus is growing in recent years, many other buildings of modern times, and LEED-certified, are added while the whole campus was renovated in 2002 and 2003 by Atlanta architects Surber Barber Choate Hertlein.
The Current Times and the Age-Old Values
Building a community of students and mentors in their 27,000 acres of campus, Berry College is one of the best private institutions in Georgia, providing education in a one-of-a-kind way. With their LifesWorks program, they provide professional experience throughout the college semesters, preparing the students for the real world with real-life experiences. With notable alumni in the disciplines ranging from theatre to politics to sports, and over 2,100 students across 180 departments filling over 1,000 jobs, Berry College is nationally recognized for its quality and education.
The college’s vast history as an educational institution, the approach of combining academic study, student work and moral code, and the values of simplistic and humble life are all embodied in the walls of this campus. Berry College, which in the past started as an attempt to bring a change in society, today has kept the spirit and essence of its founder alive and fully intact.
- Dickey, O. and Mathis, D. (2005). Berry College a history. Athens and London: The University of Georgia Press.
- Whitaker, A. (2021). The Churches and Chapels at Berry College. Anglican and Episcopal History, Volume 90 (1), pp. 53-59. Available at: https://www.proquest.com/openview/a0c84f402e344892c1c2d3e1dd2664c6/1?pq-origsite=gscholar&cbl=42165 [Accessed: 1 August 2021].
- Berry College (n.d.). Our Rich History. [online]. Available at: https://www.berry.edu/about/our-rich-history/ [Accessed 1 August 2021].
- Berry College (n.d.). About Martha Berry. [online]. Available at: https://www.berry.edu/about/our-rich-history/martha-berry [Accessed 1 August 2021].
- Berry College (n.d.). About Berry. [online]. Available at: https://www.berry.edu/about/ [Accessed 1 August 2021].
- Berry College (n.d.). Purpose and Mission. [online]. Available at: https://www.berry.edu/about/purpose-and-mission [Accessed 1 August 2021].
- Craig, R. (n.d.). Berry College. [online]. Available at: https://sah-archipedia.org/buildings/GA-01-115-0059 [Accessed 1 August 2021].
- Berry Academy (n.d.). A Pictorial History of Berry Academy. [online]. Available at: http://www.berryacademy.net/PictorialHistory.html [Accessed 3 August 2021].
- Miller, K. (2020). The Most Beautiful College Campuses in America. [online]. Available at: https://www.theactivetimes.com/travel/most-beautiful-college-campuses-america [Accessed 1 August 2021].
- Cooper Carry (2021). Berry College, Audrey B. Morgan and Deerfield Halls. [online]. Available at: https://www.coopercarry.com/projects/berry-college-audrey-b-morgan-and-deerfield-halls/ [Accessed 1 August 2021].