Blue Ridge College
New Windsor, Maryland
The Brethren Historical Library and Archives, History and Doctrines of the Church of the Brethren, and “A Yellow Brick Journey Through Life” have short histories of Blue Ridge College. The college seal was provided by the Historical Society of Carroll County
The history of Blue Ridge College has two beginnings. The main building and grounds sit atop a hill overlooking New Windsor, MD (pop. 1,331). These were first occupied by Calvert College, a Roman Catholic institution, in 1849. New Windsor College, a Presbyterian school, purchased the property in 1873. Maryland Collegiate Institute was founded by the Church of the Brethren at Union Springs, MD in 1899. In 1910 this school had around 80 students. At commencement that year, six students graduated from the College, one from the School of Music and four from the School of Business. Commencement exercises featured a concert from the choral society and contests in oration and elocution.
After a name change to Blue Ridge College, the Maryland Collegiate Institute purchased the New Windsor College campus in 1912. Advertisements in 1918 show that the school still operated as a degree-granting college, with a School of Business, a School of Music, a School of Art and an Academy attached. Twenty diplomas overall were granted that year.
With three Eastern colleges to support, congregations of the Brethren were unable to continue support of Blue Ridge; consequently, the college was sold to the Ridge Foundation in 1937. In 1938 the New Windsor Educational Foundation assumed management of the College. A combination of financial difficulties and charges of fraudulent transactions between the Foundations and the Brethren caused the college to close in 1943.
Students at Blue Ridge College made national news twice before it closed. In 1938 a Blue Ridge co-ed named Mary Grabhorn was voted “America’s Ideal College Girl.” A year later, two Blue Ridge freshmen fought a duel with fencing foils over the affections of another co-ed.
Bricks and Mortar
The oldest campus building, “Old Main,” dates from 1849, part of the Calvert College campus. It features a “belvedere (large cupola) on top” and “High style Italianate architecture marked by round beaded windows.” Renovated in 1913, it is now on the National Register. Almost immediately after moving into the campus, the Brethren began a building campaign which resulted in Windsor Hall, a chapel and women’s dormitory, (1914) and Blue Ridge Hall, a gymnasium and auditorium, (1915).
The Brethren Service Center purchased the campus in 1944, the 26 acres and four buildings costing $31,300. The Center began operating programs for refugee resettlement and disaster response as World War II came to a close. The Center went on the market in 2014.
Above) Photo of "Old Main" from the National Register application in 1978.
(<msa.maryland.gov/megafile/msa/stagsere/se1/se5/008000/008200/008212/pdf/msa_se5_8212.pdf>) accessed 11-12-2017
Team name: Newspaper accounts in 1939 refer to the team as the Mountaineers.
Colors: Blue and White
The major sport at Blue Ridge College was baseball, which the school played at least as early as 1914. Frank Bennett, who pitched for the Red Sox in 1927 and 1928 was a graduate of Blue Ridge College. The 1918 basketball team defeated the University of Maryland. Both baseball and basketball teams competed against the other Maryland state schools—Johns Hopkins, Baltimore City, Baltimore Poly, Rock Hill, St. Johns, Western Maryland, Mount St. Mary’s, and Mount St. Joseph’s. The first recorded football match was in 1917.
After a four-year hiatus, all sports returned to Blue Ridge in 1922. The football team suffered a 110-0 loss to Temple in 1927, in a game in which Blue Ridge had to borrow Temple players to finish the game. The school dropped football then until 1937. The reinstated game was no more successful, teams going 2-20-1 in the final three seasons. The 1941 team, the school’s last, was winless in eight games.
(Above) A Blue Ridge College baseball team. Photo used by permission of the Bridgewater College Special Collections.