Halfway between Chicago and Miami, Monteagle Mountain is home to two architectural landmarks. Both locations have a fascinating history, and a bright future ahead.
First, let’s take a look at the University of the South, commonly referred to by the name of the town it’s located in, Sewanee, Tennessee.
Founded in 1857 as an Episcopal school, Sewanee is now one of the most prestigious liberal arts colleges in the country, boasting 26 Rhodes Scholars among its ranks. Their annual summer Writer’s Conference reads like a Who’s Who of publishing, the pre-college programs are outstanding and the School of Letters presents a unique approach to a post graduate degree.
Sitting on 13,000 acres, the campus gives a nod to Oxford and Cambridge with its vast wonderland of Gothic architecture. The centerpiece of the facilities and grounds is the exquisite All Saint’s Chapel.
A monument of sandstone, wood and stained glass, the chapel is modeled after the great cathedrals of Europe. Beauty welcomes you at the entrance.
The interiors are voluminous and filled with finely crafted details that catch the eye, like these well worn wood benches and the arched doors with their original glass.
The stained glass windows are of exceptional quality, telling both religious and historical narratives.
All Saints Chapel was built in 1858, about 20 years before Edison perfected the light bulb, so the natural light that floods the building is a hallmark of the design.
So are the groin vaulted ceiling of the nave and the arched aisles connecting the apse to the narthex. (Somebody broke out The History of Art and Architecture!)
Stunning, don’t you think?
The campus and surrounding area is known as the Domain. Here, great thought and planning is taken to ensure that the area retains its charm. Educational buildings, dorms, fraternities and sororities are housed in less ornate Gothic style structures.
In 2000, the architectural firm of Hardy, Holman and Pfieffer met the challenge of integrating a brand new, state-of-the-art dining hall with the historic buildings found on the rest of the campus, by reinterpreting Gothic for the 21st century.
They re-imagined the traditional turret.
They revitalized the Gothic window.
They took the concept of the tower to a contemporary level.
The interior of McClurg Dining Hall references All Saints Chapel, as well.
|Photo via LeeSound|
In my opinion, the architects achieved their objective in blending the old with the new and bringing a fresh feel to the campus.
The University of the South is a great school with top notch facilities in a gorgeous mountain setting. The very walkable town of Sewanee pulses to the beat of the college. There is always something happening on campus, and you’ll find lots of artists and antiques in town. Try to catch a show at Locals Gallery.
Good eats and great coffee are at the well established Blue Chair Bakery and Cafe, or across the street at the new kid on the block (it really is just a block!), Julia’s Fine Foods. On game day, I call Shenanigans! It is the place to be for all things food, beer, camaraderie and sports.
As for dinner, well, dinner is a different story, and this is where Capone comes in.
In the opening, I mentioned that Monteagle Mountain is halfway between Chicago and Miami. Legend has it that, during prohibition, Al Capone built RyeMabee atop the mountain as his getaway along his liquor smuggling route. It was designed it so that he could see trouble coming from all directions.
Replete with escape hatches and underground tunnels, the mansion is now in operation as High Point Restaurant.
|Photo via High Point|
Open only for dinner, I’ve eaten at High Point several times and can attest to the quality of the menu and the wine list. It is superb. If you go in warm weather, reserve a seat on the patio. It is rumored that Capone use to play cards with John Dillinger out there. It’s a romantic dining spot and it’s where you can catch a glimpse of one of my favorite details.
Hand, foot, hand, foot. It’s an early version of a rock climbing wall that Capone’s men used, Tommy guns at the ready, as a means of protection and escape. Genius!
All photos © Fine Life 2012, except where noted.
We like to rent a house for the weekend, hit the all of the hot spots and hike the challenging trails of South Cumberland State Park, but there are plenty of charming places to bunk for a getaway in town, near campus, or on one of the area’s beautiful lakes.
The mountain is literally on the beaten path that is I-24 East. The interstate cuts the town of Monteagle in half, but it feels like it’s a world away. Just down the road in Sewanee, the University of the South makes you feel like you’re on a different continent. Both places are chock full of history, educational opportunities and adventure for all ages. Think like Capone and plan an escape!
I did not seek nor was I compensated in any way for this post.