Maryville College

Maryville College, a distinguished higher education institution in Blount County, was among the first colleges in the country to open its doors to African American and Native American, as well as white, males and admitted women students as early as 1869. The college dates from 1819 and the efforts of Dr. Isaac Anderson (1780-1857) to build the Southern and Western Theological Seminary to train men for leadership in the Presbyterian Church. Anderson’s goal later broadened to reach out to local whites, blacks, and Cherokees who could benefit from higher education. The seminary was known as a center for southern abolitionist thought. But divisions within the Presbyterian Church and the lack of financial support led Anderson to broaden the school’s audience from being just a seminary to a literary college, and in 1842 Maryville College was chartered. As part of its education program, Maryville College established a preparatory school, which remained in operation until 1925. In the late nineteenth century, the college was notable for its policy to have blacks and whites attend together; its doors remained opened to African Americans until Jim Crow legislation in the early twentieth century forbade blacks to attend the college. Once the U.S. Supreme Court announced its decision outlawing public segregation in Brown v. Board of Education (1954), Maryville College immediately ended segregation policies and welcomed back African Americans. It was the first college in Tennessee to do so.

The first campus was located in downtown Maryville, but Civil War activity destroyed or damaged these buildings. The college was closed from 1861 to 1866. In 1869 Maryville College moved to a new sixty-acre location on the outskirts of town, where the school constructed an impressive array of buildings, many financed by leading reform institutions or philanthropists, over the next fifty years. For example, the Freedmen’s Bureau, industrialist William Thaw of Pittsburgh, and John C. Baldwin of New York provided funds for the construction of Anderson Hall, named in honor of the school’s founder, in 1869. Benjamin Fahnestock designed this impressive Second Empire-style building, and Daniel B. Fayerweather of New York funded the construction of Fayerweather Science Hall, designed by Baumann Brothers of Knoxville, in 1898. Philanthropist Nelle McCormick of Chicago, the YMCA, and the students themselves provided the money and labor for Bartlett Hall, designed by George F. Barber of Knoxville in 1901. In the 1910s capitalist Andrew Carnegie provided funds for the five-story Carnegie Hall, which was designed by R. F. Graf and Sons of Knoxville and completed in 1917. Thaw Hall (1923) was built with donations from Mary C. Thaw of Pittsburgh. Much of the campus’s expansion came during the presidency of Samuel T. Wilson, who also had graduated from the college. All of these buildings, along with other historic structures, comprise the Maryville College Historic District, listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The beautiful campus and rich institutional history of Maryville College are sources of pride for the college’s thousands of graduates.

Current enrollment is one thousand students. The college offers the Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Music degrees. Its curriculum is wide-ranging, including thirty-three major fields in its B.A. program and two majors in its B. M. program.

Suggested Reading

Harold M. Parker Jr., “A School of the Prophets at Maryville,” Tennessee Historical Quarterly 34 (1975): 72-90

Citation Information

The following information is provided for citations.

  • Article Title Maryville College
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  • Website Name Tennessee Encyclopedia
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  • Access Date June 18, 2024
  • Publisher Tennessee Historical Society
  • Original Published Date
  • Date of Last Update March 1, 2018