Nestled in the heart of Virginia, in Prince Edward County, is the historic town of Farmville. The town is only 150 miles from our nation's capitol, and about an hour-long drive from the city of Richmond, the capitol of the Commonwealth.
Lying just south of the geographic center of the state and crossed over by the Appomattox River, Farmville lies at the intersection of US 460, US 15, and state route 45. Many Farmville residents consider their town to be a "bedroom" community to the cities of Richmond, to the east, and Lynchburg, to the west, but the town is so much more than that.
Farmville holds the distinction of being an important hub to the region's economic activity and development. Along with its historic, cultural, natural, recreational and educational attractions, Farmville has a lot to offer students enrolled at its two colleges, as well as visitors just passing through the region.
Longwood University lies in the heart of Farmville, and Hampden-Sydney College, one of the country's oldest colleges, is located approximately ten minutes outside the town. Founded in 1775, as a liberal arts college for men, Hampton-Sydney is the oldest private charter college in the Southern United States.
Hampton-Sydney College holds the distinction of being the last college founded prior to the American Revolution, and it is one of only three, four-year all mens liberal arts schools in the nation. The school is also said to have an Honor Code that rivals VMI in its seriousness.
An interesting fact about Hampton-Sydney College is that the school has been in continuous operation under three flags, the British, the Confederate and the United States flags. Classes have only been cancelled twice, once because of a small Civil War skirmish on the school grounds, and once when a hurricane toppled a tree into a dormitory building.
Longwood University was founded on March 5, 1839, and was called the Farmville Female Seminary Association. Besides being one of the nation's oldest public institutions of higher learning for women, Longwood is the third oldest public institution of higher learning in Virginia, after the College of William and Mary and the University of Virginia.
Incorporated in 1860, the school's name was changed to the Farmville Female College. In 1884, the state of Virginia acquired the institution, and the school continued to expand on its curriculum, as well as take on a number of new names. The school finally became Longwood College in 1949.
It wasn't until 1954 that graduate studies were added, and in 1976, Longwood became fully coeducational. Governor Mark Warner signed legislation on April 24, 2002, officially changing Longwood College to a University. That date was also the one-year anniversary of the Great Fire of 2001.
If anyone believes in ghosts, spirits and things that go bump-in-the-night, then they will appreciate the myth that has circulated for years about Longwood University and its name changes.
Of course, the Great Fire of 2001, which occurred on April 24 of that year, is a case in point. The main university building, Ruffner Hall, caught fire. Built in 1839, and known as the "College Building," Ruffner Hall went through many changes and renovations over the years.
For a number of years, the main floor of Ruffner Hall was administrative offices, with student dorm rooms above. In the 1970's, students moved out, and the upper floors were made into classrooms and office space. Then, in 1999, it was closed for major renovations. But that fateful date, April 24, 2001 saw Ruffner Hall destroyed by a fire, despite the efforts of 175 or more firefighters trying to save the historic building.
Look at the facts surrounding the myth about name changes and the resulting fires, and decide for yourself:
- 1923-Just before the school changed its name to the State Teachers College, the very next year the dining hall was destroyed by a fire.
- 1949-Just after the school became Longwood College, White House Hall was destroyed by a fire.
- 2001-Well, we know what happened to Ruffner Hall.
All very strange, but true events, best marked off as coincidence and nothing more. It should be noted that the dining hall and White House Hall were located close-by Ruffner Hall. The school's seal and the logo of the university both have an image of Ruffner Hall.