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Behind the Building: Oxford Community Arts Center

The Oxford Community Arts Center located on College Avenue.
The Oxford Community Arts Center located on College Avenue.

Every week, people go to the Oxford Community Arts Center (OCAC) for an event, a class or simply a creative outlet. However, few know the building also has some of the richest history in Oxford. 

Originally built in 1849 at 10 S. College Ave., the building was originally home to one of the first women’s colleges in Oxford. It was originally founded in 1830 as the Oxford Female Institute by Bethania Crocker and officially chartered in 1849. 

John Witherspoon Scott served as the first president of the institute and it flourished. In 1856, a new three-story building next to the institute was connected by a walkway. The two buildings were connected through a library, a north wing, and various other rooms by the end of the 1800s.

Then in 1867, the institute merged with the Oxford Female College. The name was then changed to Oxford College in 1890.

Eventually, in 1928, various debts and financial setbacks forced the college to close its doors. 

However, this was not the end for the building, as Miami University acquired it in 1928 under President Alfred Upham. 

When the building was first constructed, there were Greek Revival and later Victorian-era architectural elements that were additions to the building just before its absorption into Miami.

While the building was owned by Miami, several Neoclassical architectural elements were added. These included the white, wide-fluted columns that were restored in 2014 and still remain at the entrance today. The Georgian facade was largely the result of the architect Robert Harsh's work to bring together the building. 

Another addition to the building was the Brant Ballroom, added by Miami in 1929 with money raised in honor of one of the most notable alumni of the Oxford Female College, First Lady Caroline Scott Harrison. 

Photo by Sadie Childs | The Miami Student
OCAC was originally built in 1849

Harrison was the daughter of the founder of the Institute, John Scott, and married Benjamin Harrison after graduating in 1823. Harrison, a Miami alumnus himself, became the 23rd President of the United States. 

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Once acquired by Miami, the building was converted into a residence hall for women until the 1980s when it was then used for graduate student housing until it closed in 1998.

In 1976, it was placed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Finally, in October 2001, the OCAC was established to preserve the historic building and to give the city of Oxford a space for creativity. 

Currently, the building is under a 50-year lease that was updated in November 2022 allowing for a renewal date of April 2052 that has secured the center’s position in Oxford for another generation.