Historic Architecture


Sweet Briar College is known for its beautiful landscapes as well as its lovely architecture. Twenty-one of the school's oldest buildings are listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

The campus, designed in the early part of the 20th century, is dominated by the architecture of Ralph Adams Cram. Initially invited to Sweet Briar in 1901 by John McBryde, a member of the new school’s board of directors and president of Virginia Tech, the Boston-based Cram had never before designed a college campus. Eager to establish himself in this field, Cram first envisioned a grand Beaux Arts scheme of monumental buildings, ceremonial spaces, and formal gardens for what was then called “Sweet Briar Institute.” As the realities of time, funding, and location came to bear on the young school, Cram adapted his concepts. Today’s Sweet Briar community will recognize his original quadrangle at the heart of campus, crowned by the cupola of the Refectory (now called the Pannell Center), and the Georgian Revival style of the original brick buildings at the core of the Sweet Briar historic district. On the strength of his work for Sweet Briar, Cram would win commissions for the U.S. Military Academy at West Point (1904), Princeton University (1906), Rice University (1908), and the University of Richmond (1910).

Cram worked with Sweet Briar from 1901 into the early 1940s (he died in 1942). While many of his later schemes went unrealized, more recent buildings do in some sense follow his initial plans. The 1964 chapel, for example, occupies the spot Cram originally selected for a place of worship, and newer dormitories such as Dew (1956) and Glass (1960) were placed in some general relationship to Cram’s first thoughts on the campus plan.

Visitors interested in Cram's work are welcome to tour campus on their own. Prospective students and their families wishing to tour campus should contact the Admissions Office at (434) 381-6142.