Monday, June 29, 2015

2015 Most Endangered Historic Places: Sweet Briar College's Campus

Sweet Briar College’s Campus - Amherst, Virginia

Significance: Sweet Briar College was founded near Lynchburg in 1901 as a women’s college by Indiana Fletcher Williams in memory of her only daughter, Daisy. The original 3,300-acre campus, including buildings designed by Ralph Adams Cram, is still intact. The Sweet Briar College Historic District is comprised of twenty‐one of the campus’ oldest buildings listed on the Virginia Landmarks Register and the National Register of Historic Places. The Italianate Sweet Briar House, transformed by Elijah Fletcher in 1851‐52, is also listed. Other resources include a slave cemetery and dwellings, scenic viewsheds, conservation areas and old growth forests.

Threat: In March 2015, the Board of Sweet Briar College announced that it would close at the end of August 2015. The sale of the campus is rumored. Currently, none of the historic and natural resources are covered by easements that would protect them from inappropriate future development. While the college has cared for these resources over the course of the 20th century, the possibility of a sale presents them with an uncertain future.

Solution: In order to demonstrate leadership and active stewardship of the outstanding built and natural environments that comprise the campus and landholdings of Sweet Briar College, historic preservation and conservation easements should be put in place prior to any potential sale or change of use.

Photo courtesy of The Historical Marker Database

Update (6/29/15): Saving Sweet Briar, Inc., the non-profit group formed to save Sweet Briar College, recently celebrated the announcement of a settlement agreement that will save Sweet Briar College.  The settlement provides the opportunity for a new leadership team to develop a plan to shore up the college’s finances and develop a long-term plan for sustained success.  As part of the June 20 settlement agreement, Saving Sweet Briar, Inc. has agreed to deliver $12 million in donations for the ongoing operation of the College within the next 60 days, with $2.5 million to be made available by July 2. The Attorney General will consent to the release of restrictions on $16 million from the College’s endowment to augment alumnae funds for the ongoing operation of the College.  Moving forward, we continue to urge current and future leadership of Sweet Briar College to take the steps necessary to maintain and protect its unique and significant built and natural resources. 

Selected Links:

Image courtesy of Sweet Briar College

Contact: For more information or to learn how to get involved with the effort, please contact nominator Charlotte Bonini, Sweet Briar College Alumnae Association / Saving Sweet Briar Inc., at: