You are standing near the site of the original campus of Hampden-Sydney College, which stood on the knoll to your right (see artist reconstruction above). Hampden-Sydney began classes on November 10, 1775, the last college founded in Colonial America. The College has never suspended operations.
The original buildings, none of which remain, were replaced in the 1830s by Cushing Hall. The elevated location of Cushing Hall on a hill south of the original campus is the origin of the designation of the Hampden-Sydney campus as "The Hill."
Patrick Henry and James Madison (4th President of the United States) were on the first Board of Trustees. The original charter of the College, granted by the Virginia General Assembly in 1783, is the oldest private charter in the South.
William Henry Harrison, General of the Army, Governor of the Indiana Territory, and 9th President of the United States, was a member of the Class of 1791.
Hampden-Sydney's heritage is deeply rooted in both Colonial America and the Presbyterian Church. The College was formally organized in February 1775, when the Presbytery of Hanover, meeting at Nathaniel Venable's office at his Slate Hill plantation nearby accepted a gift of one hundred acres for the campus, elected Trustees, and elected Samuel Stanhope Smith as the first president. Venable's office, called "The Birthplace," is now located on campus.
President Smith (Princeton Class of 1769) chose the name Hampden-Sydney to symbolize his devotion to civil and religious freedom which John Hampden (1594-1643) and Algernon Sydney (1622-1683) had supported, and for which they had given their lives, in England's two great constitutional crises of the seventeenth century. Widely recognized as hero-martyrs by American colonial patriots, their names immediately associated the College with the cause of independence.
Hampden-Sydney is a liberal arts college for men. Students today, as they have always done, live by the Honor Code—pledging not to lie, steal, or cheat—and to conduct themselves as gentlemen at all times and in all places.
Union Theological Seminary of Virginia (now Union Presbyterian Seminary) was founded in 1822 at Hampden-Sydney. The Seminary buildings, which became part of the Hampden-Sydney campus in 1898 after the Seminary moved to Richmond, are located on the south side of the modern campus. Venable Hall is the principal building of the former Seminary campus.
Medical College of Virginia (now Virginia Commonwealth University School of Medicine) was established (1838) in Richmond as the medical department of Hampden-Sydney.
It is the tradition at Hampden-Sydney that we acknowledge each other as we go about the campus. Do not be surprised if our students greet you and do not hesitate to ask students about the College or the campus.