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The House

[T]he view that the mistletoe owes its mystic character partly to the fact of its not growing on the ground is confirmed by a parallel superstition about the mountain-ash or rowan-tree. In Jutland a rowan that is found growing out of the top of another tree is esteemed "exceedingly effective against witchcraft: since it does not grow on the ground witches have no power over it; if it is to have its full effect it must be cut on Ascension Day." Hence it is placed over doors to prevent the ingress of witches.

Sir James Frazer, The Golden Bough

Photo by John B. Padgett

The following text is drawn from an original brochure prepared by Rowan Oak’s first curator, the late Dr. James Webb.

Rowan Oak, built by a pioneer settler in the 1840s and situated deep in a grove of oak and cedar trees, was bought by William Faulkner in 1930, and became his refuge from the world until his death in 1962.

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The Original Garden at Rowan Oak.

The house was named by the Faulkners for the legend of the Rowan tree, which is recorded in Sir James Frazer’s The Golden Bough. According to the story, Scottish peasants placed a cross of Rowan wood over their thresholds to ward off evil spirits and give the occupants a place of refuge, privacy and peace. For most of his life William Faulkner sought these qualities, and his fame caused him to seek them even more.

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(Photo © by John Lawrence

Faulkner’s office with outline of A Fable on wall.

After 1930, Faulkner did most of his writing at Rowan Oak. In 1950 shortly after he was awarded the 1949 Nobel Prize, he added a small office which became his sanctuary. It was in this office that he prepared the outline for the novel A Fable and inscribed it on the wall in his close, vertical handwriting. The novel was published in 1954, and its literary value was recognized by the award of the 1956 Pulitzer Prize.
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(Photo © by John Lawrence

Faulkner’s typewriter.

The office has been left as it was at the time of the author’s death. His old Underwood portable typewriter is on a small table near the window. A small, fold-top desk that he made is in the corner and contains such items as a bottle of horse liniment, a carpenter’s pencil and a bottle of ink.

In the late afternoon, Faulkner enjoyed sitting on the east porch of the house; but as his fame grew, he was often disturbed by strangers who came to stare. A brick wall was erected from the corner of the house toward the woods, and Faulkner himself designed the formal gardens on the east side.

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The stable Faulkner designed and built.

Other projects completed by the writer include a stable which he designed and built, doing much of the work himself. The Faulkners also added the brick terraces and the bannisters on each side of the front gallery. In all their improvements, they were careful to retain the architectural lines of the original house.

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The tenant house at Rowan Oak.

Behind the residence is the cook’s house and kitchen, built by the first owner and used by Faulkner as a smoke house, where he cured his own bacon, ham and sausage. The oldest building on the property is a stable, constructed of notched, square-hewn logs, tightly chinked with clay.

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The Barn at Rowan Oak.

In all, the house and 32 acres of surrounding grounds seem to capture the spirit of the man who wrote about “man’s struggle with the human heart,”— a man who was close to the soil, and whose friends were farmers and hunters, as well as artists, writers and publishers. Years after he left it, the sense of quiet refuge from an encroaching world is preserved.

Purchased in 1973 from Faulkner’s daughter, Mrs. Jill Summers of Charlottesville, Virginia, Rowan Oak makes a significant contribution to The University of Mississippi Culture Center. In 1979-80 it was closed to the public while undergoing restoration to preserve the home as it existed at the time of death on July 6, 1962.

The restoration project was made possible through a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities and through the generous financial support of Dorothy H. Crosby of New Orleans, Louisiana, and Purvis, Mississippi. The home was re-opened on August 3, 1980, for the beginning of the Seventh Annual Faulkner and Yoknapatawpha Conference.

Rowan Oak and the 32 acres known as Bailey’s Woods (where Faulkner played as a boy) adjoin the University Museums and the Stark Young home.

Since the above brochure was written, the house has undergone another renovation to restore the house to its look at the time of Faulkner’s death and to install a modern museum-quality climate control system to protect the house and its contents from moisture and other weather-related concerns. The grounds are open to visitors during daylight hours. As of July 1, 2005, there is a fee of $5.00 for visitors to tour the house, though students may still enter free of charge. The house is open 10 a.m.-4 p.m., Tuesday through Saturday, and 1-4 p.m. Sunday. The house is closed on Mondays and major holidays.

The house is now managed by the University of Mississippi Museum; the museum’s website now features an interactive tour of Rowan Oak. Visit their website for more information, or call Rowan Oak at (662) 234-3284.

How to cite this page (MLA style):

Webb, James. “Rowan Oak.” Brochure text. In “William Faulkner’s Rowan Oak.” William Faulkner on the Web. Ed. John B. Padgett. 17 August 2006. 27 July 2017 < house.html > .

This page was last modified on Thursday, August 17, 2006, at 03:09 PM CDT.
Copyright © 1995 – 2006 by John B. Padgett.
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