Historic Memphis


Historic Memphis

Rhodes College


Southwestern goes back to the Masonic University of Tennessee, which was founded in 1848 in Clarksville, Tennessee, by the Grand Masonic Lodge of Tennessee.  In 1850 the institution became Montgomery Masonic College, which was renamed Stewart College in honor of its president, William M. Stewart, in 1855.  Under his leadership, the college passed from the Masons to the Presbyterian Church.  In 1875, the college added an undergraduate school and became Southwestern Presbyterian University.  By the early 1900s, President Charles Diehl led the successful campaign to move the campus to Memphis.  In 1925 the new Memphis campus opened and the name was shortened to Southwestern.  In 1945 the name changed to "Southwestern at Memphis".  Finally, in 1984, the college's name was changed to Rhodes College to honor former college president Peyton Nalle Rhodes.

The Castle 1849




Click on small images to see larger images


1848-1924 .   Masonic University of Tennessee  .  Montgomery Masonic College
   Stewart College   .   Southwestern Presbyterian University

In 1848, the Board of Trustees of the Masonic University of Tennessee set a goal to establish a first-class educational institution in Clarksville.  By January 1, 1849, classes began, with a faculty of six, in a "fine, two-story brick house".  Soon afterwards construction was launched on the Castle Building which would contain administration offices, classrooms and meeting rooms.  By the time the new building opened, the school was known simply at Montgomery Masonic College.


The college quickly fell into financial trouble until William M. Stewart became President in 1853.  Stewart was a prominent Presbyterian elder and sought support from his church, which enthusiastically responded.  In 1855, the Presbyterian Church purchased the grounds and buildings on campus and the school's name was soon changed to Stewart College.  The college flourished - until the onslaught of the Civil War.   The new college president insisted on keeping the college running during the war, despite the fact that most of its students were in the battle.  He soon found that the decreased incoming tuition made it unable to run successfully.

Wm M. Stewart    

Five years after the war, the college became Southwestern Presbyterian University and welcomed a new president.  Unfortunately it was not long before budget problems began to plague the school again.  When Charles Diehl took over as President, his job was to revive a dying college.  Toward this goal, he admitted women in 1920 and recruited Oxford scholars.  More importantly he made the decision to move the school to Memphis because Clarksville hadn't grown into the metropolis they had originally envisioned. 


Chas. M. Diehl


1899 Stewart Hall

1899 Waddel Hall

1904 Postcard

1905 Postcard


1906 Junior Class          1906 Baseball Team 1906 Yearbook Staff 1906 BasketBall Team

1906 Freshman Class    

1909 Annual Staff

1909 Faculty

1909 Scenes

1909 John Henry

1909 SW Presbyterian


            1920 Postcard

1912 Commencement

1924 Popular

1924 Pretty

1920 Stewart Hall


1924 President's Home      Move to Memphis 1924 Stewart Hall 1924 Castle 1924 Freshman Class

1853-54 Catalog 1870-71 Catalog 1876-77 Catalog 1883-84 Catalog 1919 Sou'wester 1899 Yearbook

A selection of catalogs are pictured (above) for Montgomery Masonic College (1853), Stewart College (1870 and 1876), Southwestern Presbyterian University (1883), a 1919 Sou'wester Newspaper,  and an early yearbook (1899).  Click on any cover and a page will open with the complete catalog, newspaper or complete yearbook .  The catalogs have lists of the faculty, a list of the current students, course descriptions, methods of teaching, scholarships, description of the campus, and tuition/price. 




The 1920's . Southwestern . When the decision was made to move the college from Clarksville, Memphis not only rolled out the red carpet, it turned green with the $500,000 the city threw in.  For President Diehl, this was "the chance of a lifetime - the opportunity to build an institution from the ground up" and he set about fashioning the "most beautiful campus in the U.S."  He supervised every detail in the building of the new Memphis campus - selecting the location, the architects, and the Collegiate Gothic design style - as well as negotiating contracts and hiring the new faculty.  The  grand campus was built for the new school across from Overton Park.  In 1925 the College moved from Clarksville to Memphis and shortened its name to  "Southwestern".


1920s Frank Harris Lodge            1920s Neeley Hall 1920s Palmer Hall 1928 Kennedy Hall


1920s Robert-White Halls 1927 Campus View 1927 1927 Campus 1927 Football Team



1927 Girl's Basketball

1927 Popular 1928 Popular 1928 Football Team 1928


1929 Group 1928 Aerial 1928 Handsome 1928 Beauty 1928 Sophoclean Club

1925 Palmer Hall


<=  The 1925 Sou'wester Newspaper       

     The 1926 Yearbook - The Lynx =>

This is the first yearbook after the school moved from Clarksville to Memphis. 

1925 Newspaper             1926 Yearbook






The 1930's .  Southwestern  .   In 1930, Dr. Diehl was charged by some Memphis ministers with heresy and financial recklessness in the management and building of the College, but the Board of Directors cleared him of all charges.  Abe Fortas, associate justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, graduates in the class of 1930.


Rifle Team

Freshman Bonnets



Abe Fortas

Ashner Gate

Science Hall




The 1940's .  Southwestern .  Southwestern at Memphis .  In 1945, Southwestern changed its name to "Southwestern at Memphis" to distinguish it from other colleges with "Southwestern" in their name.  Dr. Charles Diehl retires in 1949 after serving the college for 32 years..     



1944 Plan Drawing 1940 Entrance 1940s Picnic 1947 Hunt Gateway



1949 Pajama Party 

1947 1947 Tug War 1946 Boy's Dorm



1943 Social Room

1946 Social Room

1945 Bonnets


1941 Football Pass         Student Pass Cubs Button


The 1950's .   Southwestern at Memphis        


1950 Sign 1951 Mixer 1951 Homecoming 1953 Girl's Bonnets Entrance






The 1960's .   Southwestern at Memphis   Dr. Charles Diehl dies in 1964 at 89 years.


1960 1960 1962 snow 1962 Spring 1964

Palmer Hall 1968 Luncheon 1968 Palomer Hall Palmer Hall

    1968 Ad


1962 athletes     


The 1970's .   Southwestern at Memphis


1970 Robb Hall 1970s Brochure 1970s Dorm 1970s Clough Hall


The 1980's to the Present  .  Rhodes College .  In 1984, the college's name was changed to Rhodes College to honor former college president, and Diehl's successor, Peyton Nalle RhodesSince then, Rhodes has grown from a regionally recognized institution to a nationally ranked liberal arts college.  Enrollment has increased over the past twenty years, as has the proportion of students from outside Tennessee and the Southeast region. 


Aerial View Postcard 2012 Sou'wester Logo

The Rhodes campus covers a 100-acre tract in Midtown Memphis across from Overton Park and the Memphis Zoo.  The campus design is notable for its acres of woods and stone Gothic architecture buildings, thirteen of which are currently listed on the National Register of Historic Places.  The original buildings, including Palmer Hall (1925), Kennedy Hall (1925), and Robb and White dormitories (1925), were designed by Henry Hibbs in consultation with Charles Klauder, who designed many buildings at Princeton University.


Rhodes College has been frequently characterized as "the garden in the city," a reference to the college's lush, richly wooded, and landscaped campus in the heart of Memphis. The campus is often cited for its beauty.   Princeton Review's 1995 college guide cited Rhodes as "the most beautiful campus in America." But In recent years, the national media has offered numerous accolades to Rhodes's growing reputation for academic excellence.


Rhodes was named a “Best Southeastern College” in the Princeton Review’s 2012 edition of the Best 376 Colleges and also ranked #15 for “Most Beautiful Campus” and #19 on the list of colleges where “Students Study the Most.”


For the second year in a row, Rhodes was selected by Newsweek magazine as the #1 “Most Service-Oriented” college in the nation for encouraging students to give back to the community and spend time in selfless service.  


Memorabilia ...


Rhodes Mace Medallion 1920 Sweater

Rhodes Seal

Rhodes Seal



Music 1947 Alma Mater Sports Jacket Commencement 1950-a

Commencement 1950-b







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