Chapel and Lovelace Hall, Marion Military Institute

AL 14, Marion, Alabama



Photo taken by WillyT

View this photo at



Marion Military Institute (MMI) is the oldest military junior college in the nation and traces its origin back to 1842. During the Civil War, the MMI Chapel and Lovelace Hall were used as Breckinridge Military Hospital, treating both Union and Confederate soldiers. Both are still in use today. MMI operated as Howard College until 1887. The Alabama Baptist Convention then decided to move Howard College (which later became known as Samford University) to Birmingham, Alabama. At the time of the move, the president of Howard, Colonel James T. Murfee, along with several of the faculty and supported by the Trustees, chose to remain on the old campus. Their intention was to operate a school for young men. In 1887, they established Marion Military Institute, and a charter was granted in 1889 by the State of Alabama. The school was a non-profit institution, controlled neither by church nor state. Instead, a self-perpetuating Board of Trustees would govern its affairs.

Although established as a military school, Hopson O. Murfee, MMI’s second president, changed the emphasis following the turn of the twentieth century. The literature of the period expresses the idea that Marion was destined to become the “Eton of the South”. H.O. Murfee was one of the foremost advocates of a student run government which focused on honor and ethics within the student body. Because of this, MMI was one of the first schools in the south to establish a student government association as well as an honor system, both of which are still very much a part of the Corps today. Under Murfee’s leadership the school achieved national recognition. William Howard Taft, President of the United States, served as President of the Board of Trustees. Woodrow Wilson was the featured speaker at the convocation held in the MMI Chapel in 1905. Following his appearance, the school colors were changed to orange and black, and the tiger was adopted as the mascot in tribute to Dr. Wilson, who was President of Princeton University at the time.

The plan to pattern MMI after the great English public schools, however, was interrupted by the outbreak of World War I. The ROTC program was introduced in 1916, establishing the Early Commissioning Program and paving the way for the Service Academy Prep Program. The military nature of the school was again stressed. MMI slowly evolved into a military high school and two-year junior college, and remains a two-year junior college today.

Up until World War II, the campus consisted of primarily two buildings; the Chapel and Old South (Lovelace) Barracks. During the period that followed WWII, the President, Colonel J.T. Murfee, II, introduced a major building program. The Alumni Memorial Gymnasium was constructed along with the Chemistry Building, now John G. Monteabaro Hall, and two modern barracks, north (Wilkerson) and west (Murfee). Such building was not seen again until the 1960’s, when Colonel Paul B. Robinson embarked on a construction program that included the academic wings, Baer Memorial Library, Trustees Hall, the Excess House, and a golf course. The MMI campus currently encompasses over 160 acres and includes the Williams R. Ireland Athletic Complex, James W. Rane Barracks, the Lynn M. and Sherwood C. Middlebrooks, Jr. Fine Arts Building, the Scott G. Davis Baseball Field, the Soldier’s Field for Women’s Softball, the David J. Robinson Memorial Stadium, and the Paul B. Anderson Tennis Complex.

National Register information 

Posted to the National Register of Historic Places on September 13, 1978
Reference number
Architectural style
Other architectural type; Classical Style
Areas of significance
Education; Architecture
Level of significance
Evaluation criteria
A - Event; C - Design/Construction
Property type
Historic functions
Religious structure; Educational related housing
Current functions
Religious structure; Educational related housing
Period of significance
Significant years
1854; 1857
Number of properties
Contributing buildings: 2


19th Century (37,173)
Alabama (1,820)
Brick (42,460)
Built 1854 (325)
Built during 1850s (4,631)
Church (5,613)
Marion, Alabama (12)
Noah K. Davis (1)
Perry County, Alabama (18)
Place of worship (5,973)
Private owner (54,396)

Update Log 

  • July 18, 2011: New photos from WillyT