Luray College

Luray, Virginia

1925-1927

E-Travel

The Richmond Times-Dispatch carried some school news.   Annual Report of the Superintendent of Public Instruction provided enrollment statistics.  Aventinehall.com gives the history and architectural features of Aventine Hall as does the National Register application.  The Page Public Library provided scans from their holdings, including the image (below) of 1898 Luray College boarding students .

 

Newspapers reported three major draws for students:  first, the school was to receive “the same credit as State Teachers’ Colleges”; second, the teacher-student ration would be one faculty member for each 25 students; third, students in science classes would be allowed to make monthly trips through Luray Caverns to study changes in earth’s crust.

 

The Annual Report showed six faculty members.  John H. Booten, Superintendent of Page County schools, became the president. “Noted as a writer and poet,” he instructed “in several of the branches.”   His wife Pearl taught art.  Paul Houndshell served as dean of men and instructor of science and math.  His sister Leila “would have charge of a preparatory department.” Pansy Watters Cook became Dean of Women and was in charge of commercial subjects. Mabel Hudson taught Piano.

 

On August 19, 1925 the Times-Dispatch reported that “about one hundred and twenty-five students have already enrolled.” However, the Annual Report shows 55 students enrolled in 1925 and only 32 enrolled in 1926.  The college apparently closed in the spring of 1927.

 

In 1926 the Times-Dispatch reported a Luray College spelling contest won by Miss Zella Watters, who won a prize of $20.

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History

Luray College was created as the result of “widespread sentiment in Page County” that such a school was necessary.  There had been earlier attempts to establish a female institute (1889-1893) and later a female college (1895-1901).  On June 8, 1925 the Virginia Legislature incorporated a “college preparatory school” in Luray.  The plan was for Luray to be a co-educational prep school with one year of college-level instruction in 1925, with a year added each year until a B.A. program had been achieved. 

 

The focus of instruction was to be commercial subjects, but Times-Dispatch reported that teaching certificates would be issued to those completing two years of college work.

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Luray College Faculty and students in front of Aventine Hall probably in 1925.  Image from Luray and Page County, courtesy of Dan Sullivan.

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Aventine Hall in 2021.  Image by David Edwards, Virginia Department of Historical Resources  https://www.dhr.virginia.gov/historic-registers/159-0001/

Bricks and Mortar

The Times-Dispatch reported in July that Aventine Hall with seven acres of land had been leased for the Luray College campus.   Aventine was built between 1848 and 1852 as the residence of Peter B. Borst, Commonwealth’s Attorney for Page County.  The Greek Revivial structure was designed by Borst himself without the assistance of an architect.  Built without nails or screws, the two-story frame building was made of wood cut in the Blue Ridge and seasoned for two years.  The columns were carved from solid tree trunks; beams were 12” x 12”; doors were solid walnut.  The 8’x 4’ windows were the largest sheets of glass made at the time.  It had four chimneys for the 12 fireplaces.  The Times-Dispatch notes “sixteen large and spacious rooms.”

 

After the college closed, the Mim brothers purchased the property and moved Aventine 350 feet to make way for a new hotel, The Julian Price family acquired the property in 1936, dismantled Aventine piece by piece and moved it to its present location.    It was listed on the National Register in 1970.  At last report Dan and Sara Long Anderson were renovating Aventine as a family residence. 

Sports

Luray College had at least 25 male students enrolled in the fall of 1925, so there was an attempt to field a football team.  College Football Data Warehouse shows two games played—a 19-6 loss to Bridgewater College (attempting to restart a football program after an absence of 22 years) and a 51-0 loss to Shenandoah College. 

 

In the spring of 1926 Luray played baseball with more success, with wins over Shenandoah High School and Virginia School of the Deaf and Blind.  Newspapers also show games with Staunton Military Academy, Shenandoah College and Massanutten Military Academy.

 

By the fall of 1926, Luray College had only 12 male students enrolled (with one male teacher), so apparently there were no sports teams.