The largest college campus in Tennessee is The University of the South (referred to as “Sewanee”) in Sewanee, TN. Situated on 13,000 acres on the top of the Cumberland Plateau, Sewanee ranks among the top ten largest college campuses by acreage in the country.
Sewanee’s enrollment for combined undergraduate and graduate students is only 1,951. With the small town of Sewanee reporting a population of only about 2,500, it’s easy to see that the University is basically its own little city.
The Largest College Campus in Tennessee Is Also Beautiful
Tennessee’s most sprawling college campus is also one of the most beautiful in the state.
All Saints’ Chapel
Sewanee’s All Saints’ Chapel is famous for its awe-inspiring architecture and ethereal beauty. Designed by architect Ralph Adams Cram, the chapel sits in the southern part of the main quad. Cram was known for his Gothic Revival designs and served as the supervising architect for Princeton University.
Even though the ground was broken in 1904, the chapel was not actually finished until 1959. Interestingly, there’s no concrete or steel in the chapel construction; it’s made almost entirely from local sandstone. Many elements of the chapel earmark its Gothic style: the crenelated parapet and towers on the exterior at the building’s entrance, the 143-foot-tall Shapard Tower, stained glass, and Gothic Revival pews and choir stalls.
The Cumberland Plateau
Not many college campuses can claim a mountaintop as its home, but that’s exactly what The University of the South does. They’ve even given a name to their campus: the Domain.
The University covers 13,000 acres on the western edge of the Cumberland Plateau in southeastern middle Tennessee in Franklin County. The Domain occupies most of the northern portion of Sewanee — which may explain how the school and town have become synonymous.
This land and its surrounding areas teem with trees, plants, grasses, and wildflowers; mammals, reptiles, amphibians, and birds; and natural wonders. Hiking trails wind through the hilly terrain, leading to hidden caves and breathtaking waterfalls. And mountaintop lookouts display picturesque views for miles in all directions.
Flora and Fauna on the Largest College Campus in Tennessee
Hiking enthusiasts enjoy more than 60 miles of trails throughout the Domain. The Perimeter Trail is a 20-mile loop that circles much of the campus. Shorter trails take hikers to popular landmarks such as the Memorial Cross, Audubon Lake, and Solomon’s Temple Cave. All along the way, there are plenty of opportunities to visit stunning overlooks, gorgeous waterfalls, dense foliage, and colorful wildflowers.
It’s not unusual to come face-to-face with many different critters on Sewanee’s campus, especially in the more wooded areas of the Domain. Don’t be surprised to see any of the following amphibians, mammals, and birds — and many other animals — as you explore campus:
- Great-horned Owl
- Barred Owl
- Northern Flicker
- Red-Shouldered Hawk
- American Robin
- White-tailed deer
Plant life is so vast that the University has a designated flora project, which catalogs all the plants in Sewanee’s Domain. The project team found 1,120 vascular plant species and 15 distinct plant communities on the campus.
Some of the thousands of trees, plants, and wildflowers you’ll see at Sewanee include:
- Oak trees
- Hickory trees
- Red maple trees
- Black gum trees
- Sourwood trees
- Flowering dogwood
- Wild blue phlox
- Purple asters
- Morning glories
Things to Do in Sewanee, TN
The University is basically its own city because of the acres it occupies in Sewanee. In its immediate vicinity, the town of Sewanee and other surrounding communities are rural and small. They only offer limited dining and shopping options. The closest big-box stores are a 20-minute drive away to Winchester, TN, Franklin County’s seat.
In Sewanee, life revolves around The University of the South and its 13,000 acres, which provide plenty of educational and inspirational activities for residents, faculty, students, and visitors.
The photo featured at the top of this post is © Wirestock Creators/Shutterstock.com
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