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Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Rome, GA-"Not to be ministered unto, but to minister"

This post is about a place very special to me. This place is Berry College in Rome, GA.
Many of you have probably seen this special place without realizing it because it has been the setting for many movies. Most recently, Sweet Home Alabama and Remember the Titans.

In Sweet Home Alabama the Carmichael Plantation is actually the founder's home, Oak Hill. In Remember the Titans, the place the team goes for football camp is actually the Ford Buildings at Berry College.

Oak Hill (Better known as the Carmichael Plantation)-Martha Berry's Home

The Ford Buildings, donated to Martha Berry for Berry College by Henry Ford

Reflecting pool in the courtyard of the Ford Buildings

My family has a long Berry tradition. My parents met here and are both alumni. My aunt and uncle as well as my grandmother also all graduated from Berry. Not to mention one of our family's close friends and former teachers, Evelyn Hoge Pendley who recently passed, was one of the last people who knew the founder, Ms. Martha Berry, personally. A building stands on campus with her family name-Hoge. See picture of the Hoge Building below.

Founder, Martha Berry

I grew up on this campus. Every time we visited my grandmother (which was often) we went to Berry. It is the largest campus in the world. It, in my opinion, is also one of the most beautiful. I have worked at an Ivy League school and have visited others and I can tell you that that they pale in comparison to the splendor that is Berry's campus. I am posting this today because I was thinking about how lovely it would be take take a fall foliage hike and tour around campus this October. I hope we get the chance. The beautiful fall photo below is of the original log cabin Martha Berry used to teach her first Appalachian students the Bible.

My grandmother, who I mentioned in a previous post, graduated from Berry at the age of 79 in the winter of 2003, used to get tutored for her French class from a Berry student who was also a hostess and tour guide of the founder's home--Oak Hill.

Grandmother (middle) on graduation day outside of the Ford Buildings with two professors

It took my grandmother 9 years to graduate so when she started, I was 10 years old. I used to accompany her to her tutoring sessions in the summer at Oak Hill. (The student helped grandmother when she wasn't giving tours). They would meet in the kitchen of the mansion and I would get to wonder the grounds of the home that I love so much. One day the curator's granddaughter, Molly, was there at the same time as me. Molly was allowed to venture behind the museum ropes and enter the historic rooms. I remember being shocked when she played the piano and even tried on some clothes that were in one of the closets upstairs. I had always revered this place and really enjoyed following Molly around the house as we played. I was too afraid to touch anything. I was a little older than her and understood the importance of the historic artifacts that surrounded us.

The fondest memory I have of this particular day at Oak Hill was when a group of people came to tour the home. The guide was busy with grandmother so Molly and I offered to give them a tour. Reflecting back on this now, I am not sure we ever went to get the guide and grandmother. I think we just decided leading the tour on our own would be best. I had heard the tour so many times from my own visits that I think I did pretty well. I told of the crystal ball at the base of the stair railing and how when the home was paid off a wooden ball was replaced with a crystal one. I told which bedrooms belonged to which Berry. I told about how Ms. Martha had the elevator installed once she was no longer able to climb the stairs. On a funny note, when giving the tour of the gardens, I told the group that the sundial in the middle no longer worked because I couldn't read the time. Ha.

Anyway, long story short, this is one of my most favorite places in the world. Although I truly love Auburn University, Berry holds a close second. They may even be tied.

Here is a brief summary of Berry History:
Martha Berry was very devoted to her father, and she rode horseback along with him into the nearby hills and mountain areas, visiting with poorer landowners and tenant farmers. Her father often assisted these families with their needs, and Martha developed a desire to help them also. She never married, choosing instead to make this desire her life's work.

In the late 1890s Martha met three young boys crossing the family's property near Oak Hill on a Sunday afternoon. She learned they did not go to school or Sunday school. They were not familiar with basic stories from the Bible, so she entertained them with some of these stories. She invited them to return the next Sunday with their brothers and sisters. Soon whole families filled a small log cabin that had been built years before near Oak Hill as a playhouse for the Berry children and later served as a quiet place for Martha to read, write, and contemplate. When the group overflowed the cabin (which still stands), she built a small whitewashed school building across the highway from Oak Hill on 83 acres of land given to her by her father. She also used an abandoned church a few miles away at Possum Trot, and two other facilities were located at Mount Alto and Foster's Bend. These four Sunday schools grew into day schools for the children.

Martha eventually concluded that, in order to have sufficient impact on the children, she needed to keep them at the schools rather than have them live at home. She had a dormitory built, and on Jan. 13, 1902, she opened the Boys' Industrial School with five boarding students on the land near her home. After the school was incorporated the next year with a board of trustees, she deeded the 83-acre tract to the corporation. This school later became known as the Mount Berry School for Boys, and on Thanksgiving Day 1909 she opened the Martha Berry School for Girls approximately a mile from the boys' school. These were high schools also offering lower-level studies in the early years. The Berry schools became models for vocational, agricultural and mechanical schools throughout the world by showing how the needs of people in poor rural areas could be met. Through her schools Berry blazed a trail for the establishment of an agricultural and mechanical school in each congressional district of Georgia.

In 1926 she established Berry Junior College, which in 1930 expanded into a four-year school. The high schools were closed in later years following Berry's death in 1942. The college has continued its founder's focus on providing students with a comprehensive education of the head, the heart and the hands. Her motto still endures: "Not to be ministered unto, but to minister."

Below are some pictures of campus. More information about the college can be found on the Berry website .

Below is the mill. It was built by students and the wheel is one of the largest in the world. My brother and I used to love to play here when we were little. I still enjoy visiting it today.

These are two more pictures of Oak Hill.

This is the only interior photo of the home that I could find. It is of the living room that you see on the left as you enter the home. It is across the hall from the home's library.

A birds eye view of the Ford Buildings and the beautiful grounds

This is one of many chapels on campus. It is called Frost Chapel. This is where my parents were married.

This is the Berry family's mountain home called the House of Dreams. I hope you enjoyed this rant. Berry is a special place. If you are ever in Rome, GA it is worth your while to stop and take a tour. Oak Hill and the Martha Berry Museum are opened most days.

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