Google+ Georgia On My Mind: College Park's Cox College

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

College Park's Cox College

I wish I had a five dollar bill for every time I ventured up Highway 29/Roosevelt Highway from Red Oak to downtown College Park. I’d have a tidy sum to invest.

From the age of four until I was around 20 years of age I made that trip often…sometimes daily….sometimes two or three times a day whether I was running errands with my mother or simply going back and forth to school. 
During all those years I didn’t give the history of College Park any real notice. It’s where I hung out and lived. I was too busy going about the business of growing up to be concerned with what might have happed on any given block.

Of course, once I entered the tenth grade and began to have more rigorous history courses, and once I began attending Woodward Academy – the former Georgia Military Academy – where history and tradition just seem to ooze from every monument and brick, I couldn’t help but be interested.
For years the block along Main Street where College Park’s city hall, library and what once was College Park High School seemed to hold a secret – a secret of a past occupant due to the positioning of the  lovely old trees. I could hear the secret whispering to me as Mother and I would drive past. I’d look out of the window and wonder what had once been there, but never had the time to really look into the matter... though I heard rumors.

Who knew that back as early as the 1890s a very large and well thought of female college was on that very property – a college known as Cox College and Conservatory? The picture below shows the main building on campus. This building faced Main Street, and this picture shows what they called the Marble Entrance.
 
 
To get the whole story regarding Cox College we need to go back a little bit to 1842 when Pastor John E. Dawson organized LaGrange Female Seminary.  By 1854, the name changed to Southern Female College. The campus was located close to the intersection of Dawson and Seminary Streets. During the Civil War the school was used as a hospital and unfortunately, was lost in a fire. A second building was erected near Smith and Church Streets, but that building is also gone and is now the location of a post office.

Ichabod F. Cox took over as president of the school in 1857. When he was ready to retire his son, Charles C. Cox took over, and in 1895 he moved the school to Manchester, Georgia. The Cox family had been in charge of the school for so long that the name Cox was so strongly associated with the school that eventually folks just referred to it as Cox College.
The folks in Manchester were happy about the arrival of Cox College and welcomed the young ladies who attended. The people in Manchester were, according to Robert Ballentine author of The Woodward Story, “very school-minded and envisioned Manchester as an educational hinge in the southern area. By 1900, the college had an enrollment of more than 300 young ladies and was internationally known as an outstanding female school.”

Yes, the folks in Manchester were very school-minded, so much so they changed the name of the town to reflect it. Beginning in 1896, Manchester was known as College Park, Georgia.
Mr.Ballentine, who I remember fondly as my principal at Woodward Academy, writes in his book about the day Colonel John Charles Woodward headed up to College Park from his home in Newnan one spring morning in 1900 for a meeting about another school the citizens of College Park wanted to form.

Woodward would have noticed the large and very impressive structure of Cox College as he disembarked from the train and began walking up Main Street to the White home (today’s College Park Women’s Club) where the meeting would be held.  Colonel Woodward would have walked right by the college grounds and noticed how the campus filled a “block and forty acres”. 
Rachel Mays Dempsey advises in College Park Heritage (1958), "The campus was covered with native hickory and oak trees...There were many varieties of shrubs, hundreds of roses that bordered the walks and rows of violets and beds of rhododendrons, azaleas and camellias…The campus outlined with a low white wooden fence, was bordered on three sides by attractive homes of the faculty.”

You can get an idea of what the campus was like in these two pictures.
 


The inside of the school was just as luxurious for the period.  Here is a picture of the grand staircase,
 
 
As you can see from these few pictures the young ladies at Cox College enjoyed a beautiful campus. They had all of the modern conveniences at the turn-of-the century including electric lights, steam heat, hot and cold water, baths, a passenger elevator, tower clock, electric bells and speaking tubes per an ad in Alkhest Magazine I found online.

There was gymnasium space for tennis, and in infirmary with an experienced nurse.
The library which I picture below contained 5,000 volumes.  The school also boasted a museum of natural history and industrial chemistry with over 7,000 specimens and physical and chemical laboratories. 

So much for thinking a young ladies finishing school was simply about elocution lessons, right?
 
 
The fine arts department had 46 pianos, a large pipe organ, 2 Italian harps , an orchestral outfit, and art studios with flat models and statuary.

Charles C.Cox was known to boast, “A merely cheap school is not the aim of the management of this institution; we are working for the best in education, and are building with reference to the future.”
Getting back to the meeting Colonel Woodward attended in College Park that day in 1900…He was meeting with a group of folks to discuss the abandoned property where the Southern Military Academy had been located.  Charles Cox was a member of the group along with Colonel P.H. Brewster, I.C. McCrory and others.  At that meeting College Park’s second academic center was formed as Colonel Woodward was persuaded to take over the abandoned property, and the group became the original committee who established Georgia Military Academy/Woodward Academy.

Cox College went on for several more years educating hundreds of young ladies from across the South, however the school did close several times between 1923 and 1933 due hard times.  
Cox College closed their doors for the last time in 1938, and eventually the property became home to College Park's government complex.

You can find more pictures of this amazing place at my Facebook page under “albums” here.
…and in case you aren’t aware Colonel Woodward did take on the abandoned 16 acres. The abandoned building was renamed Founder’s Hall and Georgia Military Academy embarked on their own rich history.

2 comments:

Robertus Sutardi said...

Great! Love this kind of posts because you end up knowing more people and find out great inspiration! Online Travel Agencies

Mary Jo West said...

You are AMAZING! Thank you for your incredible research on Cox College. I was born and raised in College Park(graduated from CPHS in 1966)These photos you have found are amazing. THANK YOU for you wonderful blog. I am now hooked. Blessings, Mary Jo West
(Hall) Phoenix, AZ

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