Urban Legends

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Urban legends about and related to the College of William and Mary are nothing new on campus and off. An urban legend is defined by Merriam-Webster as "an often lurid story or anecdote that is based on hearsay and widely circulated as true".[1] There are of course also William and Mary traditions and legends to be enjoyed as well.

Things Campus Tour Guides Got Wrong

Or "Lies My Campus Tour Guide Told Me."

When possible, include a note about when you heard the urban legend.

  • The Crim Dell was ranked by Playboy magazine as the second most romantic spot on a college campus. Most recently, The Flat Hat debunked this in 2006: "Mark Duran, the research librarian at the Playboy Research Library in Chicago, classified the story as pure urban legend. “We have done those types of lists in the past, but William and Mary has never been on one of those lists,” he said. In fact, the College has never even graced the pages of Hef’s vaulted tome."[2] (Overheard by acschi passing a tour group at the Crim Dell on 6/23/2010)
  • Swem Library adds one million books to its collection every year. (Someone shared this with acschi in 2010 - is this true or an example of an urban legend among Swem staff?)

Urban Legends

  • "College was invited to join the Ivy League in the 1950s, but declined. Another version states that there is a pending invitation to join." The Ivy League refers to an athletic conference formed in 1954 and there is no evidence that William and Mary, or another institution, was invited or declined.[3]
  • Morton Hall was built on a sinkhole and has been sinking into the ground for several years.[4]
  • The Wren Building was designed by Sir Christopher Wren. In fact, Wren never actually visited North America. He was the Surveyor General under King William, so it is plausible that College President Reverend James Blair brought designs back with him after receiving the charter for the school. The prime piece of evidence that purports the attribution of the building’s design to Wren is a book written by a William and Mary professor, Hugh Jones (for whom Jones Hall is named), in 1724, called '‘The Present State of Virginia. There is a quotation that says, "The building is beautiful and commodious, being first modeled by Sir Christopher Wren, adapted to the nature of the country by the gentlemen there." Given the doubt surrounding the building’s origins, Louise Kale, Executive Director of the Historic Campus summed up the current sentiment about the debate: "It may not be a Christopher Wren building, but it is the Christopher Wren Building".[5]
  • McGlothlin-Street Hall was built backwards. The building does look different from other buildings on the Old Campus, which can be attributed to the fact that it was built decades after the other buildings.[6]

Material in the Special Collections Research Center


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Share What You Know

The SCRC welcomes various forms of support from friends and supporters. Here at the SCRC Wiki we welcome visitors to share what you may know about our collections as well as the traditions, history, and people of William & Mary based on your research or personal experience.

If you would like to share your memories or what you have discovered while using the SCRC's collections, please contact us at spcoll@wm.edu or 757-221-3090. We look forward to hearing from you.

Need help?

To search for further material, visit the Special Collections Research Center's Search Tool List for an overview of the Special Collections Database, W&M Digital Archive, Flat Hat-William & Mary News-Alumni Gazette index, card catalogs, and other tools available to help you find material of interest in William & Mary Libraries Special Collections Research Center.

Questions? Contact the Special Collections Research Center at spcoll@wm.edu or 757-221-3090, or visit the Special Collections Research Center in the Earl Gregg Swem Library at William & Mary.

A Note About The Contents Of This Wiki
The information available in this wiki is the best available from known documents and sources at the time it was written. Unfortunately, many of the early original records of William & Mary were destroyed by fires, military occupation, and the normal effects of time. Information in this wiki is not complete as new information continues to be uncovered in Swem Library's Special Collections Research Center and elsewhere. Researchers are strongly encouraged to use the Special Collections search tools for their research as the information contained in this wiki is by no means comprehensive.