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Edgar Healey Rowe  

The History of Bowling Green Seminary for Women
Beginnings at Bowling Green, Virginia

In 1901, it was moved to Buena Vista, Virginia. An old hotel at Fry's Spring in Charlottesville was considered as a possible site, but the Buena Vista Hotel, designed by Stanford White (now known to be incorrect), was selected as the better location, majestically sitting on a hill overlooking the city and the surrounding mountains. The Buena Vista Hotel had been built as part of the Buena Vista iron ore boom about 1890. One of the first buildings erected in the town, was a Queen Ann hotel overlooking the town. Principal social events took place here. In July 1890, it was completely destroyed by fire which started in the kitchen.

The hotel's 1892 brochure description:
"a beautiful structure of pressed brick, Cleveland stone and ornamental shingles, occupying a hill 100 ft high and commanding a full view of the town, the river and the picturesque mountain scenery surrounding it. It has 140 rooms, of which 93 are chambers and five are parlors. From its four towers, 130 ft high, the country can be seen for miles and miles around." By the time the hotel was finished, it had set back the Buena Vista company $125,000. It changed hands several times over the next years.

Dr Edgar Healey Rowe bought the hotel 4 years later as a new home for the Bowling Green Female Seminary (in 1901). The original part of the building in now the Main Hall of Southern Virginia College.

With this move, Dr Rowe formed the Southern Seminary System of schools. It consisted of schools at Buena Vista, Bowling Green and Alderson WV. At Buena Vista, Southern Seminary flourished. By 1910 there were more than 100 students, with half of them from outside Virginia.

At the Buena Vista school, Mr J S Engle, who was a partner in the school from 1910 until his death in 1915, directed the curricula while Dr Rowe directed the life of the students. 6 yrs after the Southern Seminary moved to Buena Vista the Bowling Green Female Seminary failed & was closed.

Dr Rowe had done an excellent job of establishing Southern Seminary as an educational institution of distinctive service. He allowed no social interaction between the sexes and forbade dancing or card playing of any kind.

While the school continued to grow under Dr Rowe's administration, the property (as had been true of the Bowling Green property) depreciated steadily. The building was in bad state of repair, the grounds were barren of trees & shrubs, and cows roamed at large over the campus. A watering trough near the back door of the building assured a constant procession of live stock around the bldg.

Such was the scene when Dr Robert Lee Durham his wife and daughter arrived in Buena Vista. Dr Durham who was already highly respected as an educator, bought 1/2 interest in Southern Seminary in 1919, and with his family became the resident head of the school. By this time, Dr Rowe was already spending most of his time on his farm "Holly Hill" in Caroline County and was eager to turn the running of the school over to someone else. Dr Durham became Southern Seminary's 2nd President in 1919.

Mr H Russell Robey married Margaret Durham and purchased Dr Rowe's 1/2 interest in the school.

Southern Seminary is now the Southern Virginia University.


Source: "History of Southern Seminary" by Dr Sidney Sandridge; "Through the Years: Southern Sem", published by Francis Lynn



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