If you’ve never visited Berry College near Rome, Ga., it is definitely worth a stroll around campus, preferably in spring or summer, when you can enjoy beautiful weather and wildlife. It is one of the most gorgeous spots Sweetums and I have visited in our travels, and it is also an unusual campus for several reasons:
1. The four-year private liberal arts college near Rome, Georgia, has the largest contiguous college campus in the world at 27,000 acres.
2. The acreage includes a wildlife refuge with fields, forests and wildlife, most notably a deer population numbering from 1,500 to 2,000. The refuge is managed by the Georgia Department of Natural Resources. Portions of the campus are open to the public for hiking, biking and horseback riding.
3. It was founded in 1902 … by a woman. Martha Berry started the school for young boys. The Berry College web site says: “The seeds of Berry College were planted in 1902, with the opening of the Boys’ Industrial School, a boarding school for boys located approximately three miles north of Rome, Georgia. The school’s creation was the result of the vision and devoted efforts of Martha Berry, the daughter of a prosperous local business owner, who had come to believe that education could provide a path from poverty for local children.”
4. It has all kinds of intriguing buildings, with the most visible being the incredible original English Gothic-style buildings. It also has historic and picturesque red barns, an original log cabin and the House O’ Dreams. The college site says, “The House o’ Dreams is a large stone and board-and-batten cottage on top of Lavender Mountain. Plans were drawn by Harry Carlson of Cooledge and Carlson of Boston. It was built in 1922 by students and staff as a gift to Miss Berry on the 20th anniversary of the Schools. At 1,360 feet above sea level, 600 feet above Frost Chapel, the House o’ Dreams and its water/fire tower command a superb view of the campuses, the reservoir, the city of Rome, the northwest Georgia area, and neighboring states, Alabama and Tennessee.”
The Roosevelt Cabin is another picturesque spot. “Roosevelt Cabin, first referred to only as “the Cabin,” one of the oldest buildings on the main campus, symbolizes more than any other building Miss Berry’s history and philosophy. Soon after the schools opened in 1902, Miss Berry and Captain John Gibbs Barnwell, architect for the Berry Schools, drew up plans for a rustic log cabin which was to serve as a guest house and a social center/demonstration cottage …”
The Possum Trot Church is considered “the cradle of Berry College.” The website says, “Built originally around 1850, the old church was appropriated by Martha Berry for the Possum Trot Sunday School in 1900. (Possum Trot was a school from 1900-1954). The needs of the people at Possum Trot, and places like it, inspired her to build the schools to help children of the area learn how to use their talents and resources better. Miss Berry’s title, ‘The Sunday Lady of Possum Trot,’ originated from her Sunday school at the church.” She painted scriptures on the walls of this church to compensate for the lack of Bibles, including one still seen today, “The eyes of the Lord are in every place beholding the evil and the good.”
The Old Mill, constructed in 1930, has a wooden overshot waterwheel that is one of the largest in the world at 42 feet in diameter. It was constructed by student workers and runs on water piped directly from Berry’s reservoir lake. The college website says, “Once primed, the force of gravity is strong enough to push the water up the stone column, and over the wheel, causing it to turn.” The wheel was rebuilt in 1977 and the grinding mechanism was restored in 1985 so that it can once again grind corn meal. Cornmeal is sold, when available, at the Oak Hill Gift Shop.
More photos of the campus: