The Columns (Columbia, Missouri)

The Columns are the most recognized landmark of the University of Missouri in Columbia, Missouri. Standing forty-three feet (13 m) tall in the center of Francis Quadrangle and at the south end of the Avenue of the Columns, they are the remains of the portico of Academic Hall. Along with Jesse Hall, they are one of the most photographed sites in Missouri.[2] The Columns have been at the center of many traditions and events including graduations, concerts, pranks, weddings, and protests. Mizzou's school song mentions the columns,[3] and they have been the setting for a work of fiction. They are a contributing structure to the Francis Quadrangle National Historic District. The columns underwent preservation work in 2017.

The Columns
Jesse Hall and the Columns, University of Missouri - panoramio.jpg
The six Ionic columns in front of Jesse Hall
The Columns (Columbia, Missouri) is located in Missouri
The Columns (Columbia, Missouri)
The Columns (Columbia, Missouri) is located in the United States
The Columns (Columbia, Missouri)
LocationColumbia, Missouri
Coordinates38°56′47″N 92°19′44″W / 38.946282°N 92.328781°W / 38.946282; -92.328781Coordinates: 38°56′47″N 92°19′44″W / 38.946282°N 92.328781°W / 38.946282; -92.328781
ArchitectStephen Hills
Architectural styleClassical Revival
Part ofFrancis Quadrangle Historic District (ID73001036[1])
Added to NRHPDecember 18, 1973


Academic Hall was constructed in 1840–1843 as the first building of the University of Missouri and the first public university building west of the Mississippi River. Accountant and architect Stephen Hills, who also designed the first Missouri State Capitol Building, designed the hall. The hall's columns were made from limestone drums from the Hinkson Creek Valley south of the campus.[4] When Academic Hall burned to the ground in 1892, the columns remained standing. In the next few months after the fire, many people thought that the Columns were an eyesore that blocked the view of the new buildings (Red Campus) being constructed on the Quadrangle. Some even worried that they were structurally unsound and a safety hazard. In August 1893, the Board of Curators issued a resolution that called for the Columns to be demolished "as soon as convenient". A local newspaper reported that Gideon F. Rothwell had ordered two mule teams to pull down and remove the Columns. Jerry S. Dorsey, a leading Columbia citizen, led a protest against their removal, saying that "the Columns could not be pulled down by a herd of elephants". Rothwell replied that the columns were coming down "even if he had to dynamite them." Dorsey obtained a judicial writ that halted the immediate destruction of the Columns, and an architect said they would be structurally sound. The protest from Columbia citizens and the reassurance that the Columns did not pose a safety hazard led Rothwell and the other curators to have a change of heart in December 1893, and the Columns remain.[5][6] In 2017, the columns underwent a major preservation effort.[7] In the 2017 fall semester, the University of Missouri offered a class called "The Geology of the Columns".[8]


At the beginning of the academic year, freshmen participate in Tiger Walk to symbolize their move from the wider community to the university by walking through the columns.[9] Tap Day occurs under the columns, when the schools secret societies announce their new members.[10]

Appearances in art and literatureEdit

A mural of James S. Rollins and the Columns is located in the office of the Missouri Governor in the Missouri State Capitol. They are also featured in a monumental stained-glass window titled Missouri at Peace located in the Missouri House Chamber.[11]

A mural by George Caleb Bingham depicting Academic Hall was destroyed when the same burned. Academic Hall and the Columns are also featured in murals in the Boone County Courthouse and the Columbia Municipal Court.

The Columns are the namesake of Penny Garrison's novel In The Shadow of the Columns.[12]



  1. ^ "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. July 9, 2010.
  2. ^ "University of Missouri's 6 Columns to Undergo Repairs". Retrieved June 15, 2018.
  3. ^ "School Songs". Retrieved June 15, 2018.
  4. ^ "History of the Columns". Retrieved June 15, 2018.
  5. ^ "Y1.9K: Mizzou in 1900: The Columns destroyed". Retrieved June 15, 2018.
  6. ^ "Mizzou Lore and Legend". Retrieved June 15, 2018.
  7. ^ "Long-suffering MU columns to undergo preservation work this summer". columbiamissourian. Retrieved June 15, 2018.
  8. ^ "Alumni Newsletter 2017" (PDF). Retrieved June 15, 2018.
  9. ^ "Tiger Walk 2017". Retrieved June 15, 2018.
  10. ^ "Tap Day 2017". Retrieved June 15, 2018.
  11. ^ Pickard, John, The Missouri State Capitol: Report of the Capitol Decoration Commission, 1917–1928, Capitol Decoration Committee, Jefferson City Missouri, 1928
  12. ^ "In the Shadow of the Columns". Retrieved June 15, 2018.