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A Piece of Faulkner’s Ole Miss Bond Up for Demolition

During William Faulkner’s transitional years – that period when he was torn between writing fulltime and making a practical living to support his family – he worked the night shift as supervisor at the University of Mississippi’s Power Plant where, it has been told, he wrote his classic novel, As I Lay Dying, which is considered a landmark of 20th century literature.

Demolition of the historic University of Mississippi Power plant has begun. Photo by Jeff McVay
Demolition of the historic University of Mississippi Power plant has begun.
Photo by Jeff McVay

That magnificent piece of literature sealed his fate as a novelist, after which he purchased and moved to Rowan Oak with his extended family; penning profound run-on sentences (novels and screen plays) for the reminder of his life.

The building – completed in 1908 – is now slated for demolition, of which the early signs are evident (see short video below).

UM officials and other historic archivists have determined (more than once) that the power plant has been poorly maintained and has experienced structural damage over the years. This determination fits nicely into the new building plans of a $135 million science structure (STEM building) that will inhabit its space – or, at least, in its shadow.

Instead of saving the building, university architect Ian Banner has decided to erect a commemorative space which is expected to honor Faulkner in an area being called Ford Way.

According to OleMissNews: Ford Way will be the major artery through the Science District, which is the section of campus between University Avenue and All American Drive. In addition to being the location for the science building, it will be the site of a commemorative area created to honor author William Faulkner and the activities he performed in that part of campus. As a result, this pathway will bring together science and Faulkner’s literary works in a way that honors the connection to the liberal arts.

An aerial view of the historic UM Power Plant. Photo courtesy of Ole Miss
An aerial view of the historic UM Power Plant.
Photo courtesy of Ole Miss

Ford Way will pick up where the Walk of Champions ends at the edge of the Grove, run alongside the new science building and stretch to a gathering plaza between Vaught-Hemingway Stadium and the Pavilion at Ole Miss.

It’s difficult to decide whether to be thrilled for yet another Ole Miss expansion, or to be humbled by a loss of literary history. Thankfully, university officials have recognized the need to – at least – memorialize the area and keep Pappy’s memory alive as Ole Miss catapults itself deeper into the 21st century.

Jeff McVay is a staff writer and graphic designer for Hottytoddy.com. He can be reached at jeff.mcvay@hottytoddy.com.

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