In 1974 the former home of the presidents of Western College became the offices of the Western College Alumnae Association, Inc. and the Patterson Place Museum. The Museum collection consists of paintings, furniture and other artifacts that are part of Western College history and were in Helen Peabody Hall, the residence halls and other buildings on the campus, and Miss Peabody’s retirement home in Pasadena, California. The Museum has a large collection of Western memorabilia. It also contains the Narka Nelson Archives which has material concerning alumnae association matters and the history of Western College. View or download the Museum brochure.
The Patterson Place Museum was built on the site of the home of James Fisher, a farmer, who provided the thirty acres on which the original building of the Western Female Seminary, subsequently Western College, was built in 1853-1855. The Fisher home became The Little Western where the Senior Class studied in the months after the fire of 1860 that destroyed the Seminary Building. In 1864 the Fisher house and land was sold to a retired Presbyterian minister, the Rev. Andrew O. Patterson, who brought his wife, Maria, and children to live in Oxford. On the night of August 10, 1870 Mrs. Patterson, now a widow, and her children John, James, Alice, and Virginia were living in the house when it burned down and the site was abandoned as a home.
Western students, however, found the remains of the house a romantic ruin. They would walk down from the Seminary to The Ruins, as they named the site, where wild flowers grew, to “botanize” for their classes. They and the young women from Oxford Female College, located east of North Patterson Avenue, also enjoyed picnics there.
In 1898 James Patterson, who had inherited the seventy acre site, decided to build a summer home in Oxford. He arranged with T. C. Lloyd, an Oxford contractor, to construct the two story, seven room house of dark brick with a porch on three sides. The house did not have central heat or running water except for a pump in the kitchen.
After Patterson’s death in 1913, the property was acquired by Western College in 1914 and became the home of Western presidents until 1974. While the house has been renovated a number of times since it was built, the major renovation was in 1916 when an addition was built at the rear as a kitchen and the interior modernized.
The first Western president to live in the house was William Waddell Boyd whose inaugural reception was held in Patterson Place on Nov. 14, 1914. Annual teas, evening socials, and commencement receptions have been held in the house through the years.
James R. Patterson
Patterson, for whom the house was named, was born in Westmoreland County, Pennsylvania, in 1834, the son of a Presbyterian clergyman. The family moved to Ohio in 1851, and Patterson earned an A. B. degree from Miami University before becoming a Cincinnati businessman, newspaper correspondent, Louisiana plantation owner, and Miami University Trustee. A bachelor, he and his unmarried sister spent their summers in Oxford and winters in Mansfield, Louisiana. Patterson was a generous contributor to Western College as well as to the Alumni Library at Miami and received an honorary degree from his alma mater in 1912. Patterson died in 1913 and was buried in the Oxford Cemetery near his parents and siblings. The following year, his home Glenwilde, became the home of Western’s presidents, and the dwelling took on the name “Patterson Place.”