The Sunken Garden

Exam week has come around once again.  Students can be found camped out in the library, lining the halls, or waiting in lines for food and caffeine.  Others take to the outdoors, preferring to soak up some sun while trying to commit those last few bits of text to memory.  It is not unusual to see students beneath the trees near Kennard-Washington Hall, or relaxing on the Centennial Green.  Amid the bustle of campus activities, it can be a relief to have places like these to relax in. 

For over twenty years, students, faculty, and staff enjoyed the serenity of the Sunken Garden.  This garden was co-sponsored by the State Teachers College classes of 1929, 1930, and 1932.  Due west of the President’s Home (now the Ogletree House), the garden was located where McLemore Hall is now.  The formal garden was completed and dedicated on Class Day in the spring of 1932 and became a site of college and community gatherings.  It was not unusual for the city’s garden club to have meetings and events there.  Truly “sunken,” the land was excavated during construction so that steps could lead one down into the garden.  A picturesque spot, the garden featured small fish ponds, shrubs and more formal plantings, pergolas, and a decorative platform.  Stone benches and lampposts completed the setting.

As the college grew, it became apparent to President R.C. Cook that there was a need for a centralized building dedicated to student services.  It was decided that the Sunken Garden would be replaced by a new building that would provide a place for students to come together.  This building, completed in 1956, would be the first incarnation of the R.C. Cook College Union.  When the new university union was completed in 1976, the old R.C. Cook Union became McLemore Hall.

Now the only remnants of the Sunken Garden are photographs and clippings, but the University continues the tradition of maintaining natural spots for the campus community to enjoy.

Photographs of the Sunken Garden may be viewed online in Special Collections’ Digital Collections or in Special Collections in McCain Library & Archives room 305.  If you have any questions, please contact Jess Clark, Records Management Specialist of University Archives, at or 601.266.5776.


Morgan, Chester M.  Dearly Bought, Deeply Treasured: The University of Southern Mississippi 1912-1987.  Jackson: The University Press of Mississippi, 1987.

Record Group 4, University Buildings and Features, University Archives, Special Collections, The University of Southern Mississippi Libraries.

Record Group 20, Physical Plant, University Archives, Special Collections, The University of Southern Mississippi Libraries.

“Support Student Center” Student Printz December 12, 1952, Page 4.  

Text by Jess Clark, Records Management Specialist of University Archives.