Located just south of the well-known square in Oxford is a slice of Mississippi’s rich literary heritage. Here, Rowan Oak, home of Nobel Prize-winning author William Faulkner, still stands on Old Taylor Road and still reveals the history of the man and his stories. Faulkner was one of the first authors to write about the modern south, and his home remains to reflect that aesthetic.
Rowan Oak was built in 1848 by Robert Shegog. Faulkner purchased the house, then in a state of major disrepair, in 1930. He did many of the property’s much needed renovations himself. Faulkner named the house “Rowan Oak” after the legend of the Rowan tree, believed by Celtic people to harbor magical powers of safety and protection. It was here that he penned such acclaimed works as As I Lay Dying, Absalom, Absalom!, Light in August and the Pulitzer Prize winning novel A Fable. In fact, one of the most memorable features of the home today is an outline of A Fable handwritten directly on the walls of the study by the man himself.
Rowan Oak remained home to Faulkner until his death in 1962. Today, the layout of the rooms and the placement of items reflect how Faulkner lived. Many of his personal artifacts, including furniture, artwork and a typewriter, are on display and recreate the author’s way of life.
While the house may not feature some of the grandeur of other antebellum structures around the state, Rowan Oak maintains a mythical quality due to the setting and the mystic of the man who lived there. The house is surrounded by hundreds of species of native plants, and the alley of cedar trees that line the driveway evoke a mood of past and present intersecting right here.
Rowan Oak was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1968. Then in 1972, Faulkner’s daughter Jill Faulkner Summer sold the house to the University of Mississippi, which now maintains the property to preserve Faulkner’s literary heritage. After its most recent renovations, Rowan Oak was rededicated in May 2005. Some of those renovations were funded by part-time Oxford resident, University of Mississippi law school alumnus and noted author, John Grisham.
The house is open Tues.-Sat. from 10-4 and Sunday 1-4. For more information or to schedule a tour, go to rowanoak.com.