Rowan Oak reopens after renovation to kick off 31st annual Faulkner & Yoknapatawpha Conference
July 25, 2004
By Tobie Baker
OXFORD, Miss. — William Faulkners Rowan Oak, closed to visitors since December 2001, reopens today after a nearly $1 million restoration of the Greek Revival house and grounds.
The noon reopening kicks off the 31st annual Faulkner and Yoknapatawpha Conference, which runs through July 29 at the University of Mississippi. The university owns and operates Rowan Oak as part of University Museums.
The reopening marks the end of the second phase in a three-phrase restoration project. The completed work includes new electrical wiring and plumbing, a museum-grade climate control system and foundation support, as well as wall repairs, painting and reproduction wallpaper. The work was funded with $500,000 from the state and a $363,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Interior.
The final phase, landscaping and restoration of outbuildings, begins this fall. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development is providing a $479,000 grant for the work.
“The home is going to be in good shape for years to come,” said William Griffith, Rowan Oak curator. “The restoration ensures visitors from around the world the opportunity to experience Faulkners life at Rowan Oak.”
Built by a pioneer settler in the 1840s, the antebellum house was purchased by Faulkner in 1930, and it was his home until his death in 1962. Originally known as the Bailey Place, the estate was renamed Rowan Oak by the Nobel Prize-winning author for the legend of the Rowan tree, which is recorded in Sir James Frazers The Golden Bough.
According to the story, Scottish peasants placed a cross of Rowan wood over their thresholds to ward off evil spirts and give the occupants a place of refuge, privacy and peace. Just as Faulkner experienced these qualities while writing and living on the estate, these features continue today under the cedars and hardwoods, Griffith said.
In 1952, Faulkner added a small office to the house and inscribed on the wall the outline for the Pultizer Prize-winning novel A Fable. The office remains as it was at the time of his death.
Besides the office, Faulkner erected a brick wall on the east side of the house to ward off staring strangers, constructed a stable and added brick terraces.
The authors daughter, Jill Faulkner Summers, sold the house and the 31-acre estate to the university in 1972. The house was last restored in 1980.
The grounds are open to visitors during daylight hours, and the home is open 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays and 1-4 p.m. on Sundays. For guided tours, including assistance related to a disability, call 662-234-3284.
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