Greek Amphitheater at Point Loma Nazarene University
Photo Credit: David Ball, Attribution, via Wikimedia Commons

From natural wonders to statues and memorials, the United States is home to some of the most captivating college landmarks. In this article, we will explore 50 of the most iconic and significant college landmarks in the U.S. Each landmark has a unique story to tell. They are not only symbols of our nation’s rich educational history but also reminders of the vital role that colleges and universities play in our nation’s culture.

The landmarks on our list are noteworthy for many reasons. Several are historical markers that symbolize freedom and equality. Others are fascinating works of art or awe inspiring natural wonders. Some made the list because they are bizarre! All of the captivating college landmarks certainly deserve to be celebrated. For ease of reading, we have organized the universities in alphabetical order. Join us on our journey as we explore these 50 fascinating college landmarks!

Alabama State University – Rosa Parks Monument (Montgomery, AL)

ASU pays tribute to Rosa Parks, a civil rights icon who refused to render her seat to a white passenger in the front of the bus in Montgomery, AL. Her arrest in 1955 sparked the Montgomery Bus Boycott, a significant milestone in the fight for freedom and justice in the United States. The monument serves as a reminder of this act of courage. Parks graduated from ASU, then known as Alabama State Teachers College for Negroes.

Carnegie Mellon University – Walking to the Sky (Pittsburgh, PA)

Created by alumnus Jonathan Borofsky, the sculpture represents the pursuit of knowledge, perseverance to reach new heights, determination, and striving for achievement. The 100-foot sculpture displays a businesswoman, a little girl, a young man, and several others climbing to new heights. 

Chapman University – Berlin Wall Section (Orange, CA)

Bobak Ha’Eri, CC BY 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

In 1997 Chapman University President Emeritus Jim Doti secured a section of the Berlin Wall. He helped create Liberty Plaza at the university to house the historical monument. It symbolizes freedom and hope, reminding us of the triumph after the division of Germany between East and West and the rise of democracy during the Cold War.

Furman University – The Bell Tower (Greenville, SC)

olekinderhook, CC BY 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The structure is located on a peninsula in Furman Lake and symbolizes the school’s commitment to community and academic excellence. It serves as a backdrop to gatherings and events. The tower was a gift from the Alester G. Furman family in 1965. It is a replica of the original tower that stood in 1854.

George Washington University – River Horse Statue (Washington, D.C.)

The story behind the River Horse Statue is as fascinating as the statue itself. Some report GWU’s class of 2000 gifted the hippo to the school. According to this account, the students chose a hippopotamus because of the legend that George and Martha Washington used to watch hippos gather in the Potomac from their porch at Mount Vernon. Other reports state that the statue was a gift from former GWU president Stephen Trachtenberg. In this bizarre account, Trachtenberg purchased the hippo at an antique store and forgot about it. He decided to gift the hippo to the school. Whatever version is accurate, this is an captivating college landmark worth visiting!

Incarnate Word University – The Blue Hole (San Antonio, TX)

With great cultural, historical, and spiritual significance, this natural spring has crystal-clear waters. The spring is the headwaters of the San Antonio river. It has limestone cliffs that surround it, making it a place that serves as a relaxing and serene spot for recreation and calm reflection. It also serves as an outdoor classroom for stimulating biology, history, and geology classes.

Iowa State University – The Zodiac (Ames, IA)

U.S. Department of AgricultureLance Cheung/Multimedia PhotoJournalist, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

William T. Proudfoot designed Iowa State’s famous Zodiac formation. In 1929 he embedded the bronze Zodiac formation into the flooring of Gold Star Hall. According to student tradition, you will have bad luck if you step on the Zodiac.  

Kent State University – Solar Totem #1 (Kent, OH)

Mws77 (talk) (Uploads), Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Artist Don Drumm designed and sculpted the Solar Totem #1 in 1967. The original idea was to craft a piece of art that would cast a wide range of shadows as the sun danced through the sky. In May of 1970, four Kent State students were killed by National Guard troops during an anti-war rally. One of the bullets pierced a steel plate in the sculpture. The bullet hole is still there today, a constant reminder of the atrocities committed that day. 

Lebanon Valley College – “Hot Dog” Frank Aftosmes (Annville, PA)

Artist Zenos Frudakis created the statue to depict a famous hot dog vendor named Aftosmes. He sold his legendary hot dogs at the school’s games for many years. The school remembers his life and legacy with the statue and the Hot Dog Frank Athletic Service Award, awarded annually to somebody who goes above and beyond to support LVC athletics.

Louisiana State University – Leisure River (Baton Rouge, LA)

In 2013 LSU embarked on an $85 million expansion to enhance the students’ quality of life. A “lazy river” style leisure pool was among the campus enhancements list. The pool is three and a half feet deep, 536 feet long, and in the shape of the school’s acronym, spelling out “LSU.” 

Meredith College – Margaret Bright Gallery of Class Dolls (Raleigh, NC)

Truly one of the most intriguing college landmarks, the Margaret Bright Gallery of Class Dolls in unlike anything you have seen. Meredith graduating classes have gifted the school “class dolls” since 1937. They line the walls of the rotunda found in Meredith College’s Johnson Hall Administration Building.

Michigan State University – The Rock (East Lansing, MI)

Guettarda, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The Rock is a tradition that goes back to the 1870s. It’s an enormous boulder that weighs 12 tons and estimated to be 18,000-years-old. The colossal formation is used as a canvas where students paint artwork and messages. 

Michigan Technical University – Mont Ripley Ski Area (Houghton, MI)

Chris857, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Since 1940, the school has operated and enjoyed this popular ski resort at an elevation of 1,000 feet across 112 acres. The mountain has challenging slopes attracting skiers and snowboarders. Other winter activities are offered to people from all over the region, including ice skating, tubing, and snowshoeing. 

Montclair State University – Campus Rocks (Montclair, NJ)

Students have painted large boulders on Montclair State University’s campus for decades. Around 100 different student groups work to refresh and paint the rocks each year. There are over 280 rocks decorated to represent different clubs, groups, and teams at the school.

Morehouse College – Martin Luther King Jr. Chapel and Plaza (Atlanta, GA)

Thomson200, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

The chapel is dedicated to one of the school’s most famous alumnus, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., who graduated in 1948. It was built in 1978 with stained-glass windows and serves as a gathering place. The statue in the plaza is the only bronze statue of Dr. King in Georgia. It’s a major symbol of his legacy and the impact on the country’s social changes.

Murray State University – The Shoe Tree (Murray, KY)

Simon PlacrCC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

This is one of the most romantic college landmarks in the U.S. While the origins are a little fuzzy, in the late 1960s, students began hanging shoes on a tree on campus. The shoes represent them finding the love of their lives or the “sole” mate. Often former students expecting a child will return to the tree and hang baby shoes.

Ohio State University – Groundswell (Columbus, OH)

Artist Maya Lin created this innovative sculpture in 1993. It is comprised of broken shards of recycled glass contained within a concrete enclosure. It represents the blending of her love for southeastern Ohio terrain and her affinity for the raked sand gardens of Japan. 

Ohio University – Æthelred Eldridge Mural (Athens, OH)

Æthelred Eldridge was a legendary professor of art and drawing at Ohio University. In 1967 he painted this massive mural on an exterior wall of Ohio University’s Seigfred Hall. The mural was refreshed and restored in 2015 by a few students. 

Oregon Health & Science University – Portland Aerial Tram (Portland, OR)

Doug Kerr from Albany, NY, United States, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Used as a transportation system since 2007, the tram provides an efficient and quick trip between the school’s two campuses. Its sleek design and beautiful views provide a great way to see the Portland skyline. The innovative and sustainable structure represents the school’s values and commitment.

Point Loma Nazarene University – Greek Amphitheater (San Diego, CA)

David Ball, Attribution, via Wikimedia Commons

The oldest Greek-inspired amphitheater in the United States was built in 1901. Madame Katherine Tingley bought the land and oversaw the construction of the Amphitheater. Today it sits on the campus of Point Loma Nazarene University. It overlooks the Pacific Ocean, making it a popular venue for special events, plays, and weddings.

Pomona College – Dividing the Light (Claremont, CA)

Sdkb, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Located in the Draper Courtyard of Pomona College, this public art installation was created by James Turrell in 2007. A lighting program covers the canopy with changing colors at dawn and dusk. As viewers sit on the benches, gazing at the sky, art installation alters the perception of the California Sky. 

Rice University – Twilight Epiphany Skyspace (Houston, TX)

This beautiful art installation was completed in 2012 by artist James Turrell. It creates an immersive experience with a 45-minute light show and a synchronized soundtrack at sunrise and sunset. The roof allows natural light to filter into the space, creating stunning visual effects that attract visitors to the campus.

Saint Louis University – The Billiken (St. Louis, MO)

Wilson Delgado, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

The Billiken is a whimsical and quirky character that is the school’s beloved mascot. It has a mischievous grin and pointy ears. Its origin is unknown, but some say that it was inspired by a good-luck charm. SLU has a Billiken statue outside of Chaifetz Arena. Fans are encouraged to rub its belly for good luck.

Seattle Pacific University – Blakely Island Field Station (Blakely Island, WA)

Though Seattle Pacific University is located in the heart of Seattle, WA, they own a research facility on Blakely Island in the San Juans. The land was donated to the school in 1976. With access only by boat or plane, the school built Thomas B. Crowley laboratory in 1984 to conduct research. Each summer students and staff live on the island to study marine biology.

Seton Hall University – Christmas Tree (South Orange, NJ)

Though this is a seasonal landmark, it deserves a place on our list! The tree serves as the school’s beloved Christmas tradition and is a popular gathering spot for the whole community. It is adorned with hundreds of decorations and lights during the holiday season. It represents the school’s commitment to holding an inclusive and welcoming campus for all cultures and traditions.

Southern Adventist University – Student Park Cave (Collegedale, TN)

This natural space includes nearly a mile of caves and underground streams that extend throughout the area. Those interested in spelunking and caving can access this safe destination that provides beauty and diversity to the school. In addition, the site is also a valuable educational resource for all.

Swarthmore College – The Scott Arboretum (Swarthmore, PA)

As an expansive and gorgeous botanical garden, the space covers 300 acres with various natural fauna worldwide. It was established in 1929 and named in honor of Arthur Hoyt Scott, a horticulturist and trustee of the school. The arboretum is a resource for education and research.

Texas A&M University – Bonfire Memorial (College Station, TX)

Patrick CreightonCC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The memorial is dedicated to students who died in the tragic collapse of the Aggie Bonfire at Texas A&M University in 1999. It represents resilience and strength to the community. A series of bronze plaques comprise the large sculpture that symbolizes the 12 students who tragically lost their lives.

Texas Christian University – Horned Frog Statue (Fort Worth, TX)

Amymay52, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

The beloved statue symbolizes the school’s iconic horned frog mascot. The place is a popular spot for students and visitors and represents the school’s spirit and pride. It was erected in the early 2000s and emphasizes resilience and strength for the school and community alike.

Toccoa Falls College – Toccoa Falls (Toccoa, GA)

The picturesque waterfall is one of the tallest free-falling waterfalls east of the Mississippi River at 186 feet tall. The natural formation started millions of years ago and is now a beautiful destination in the area. 

Towson University – Sculpture Walk (Towson, MD)

These mesmerizing sculptures have a special connection to Towson University. Many were created on campus. The Sculpture Walk begins inside the Center for the Arts lobby. Next, visitors can walk around the building to see ten sculptures. The final two sculptures stand across campus near the College of Liberal Arts.

Tuskegee University – Booker T. Washington Monument (Tuskegee, AL)

SkegeepediaCC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The monument honors Booker T. Washington, the founder and first president of the university. He was a key figure in the civil rights of African Americans during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The bronze statue was erected in 1922 as a symbol of racial equality and social justice.

University of Alaska Southeast – Totem Poles (Juneau, AK)

These totems celebrate and honor the beauty, strength, and history of the Tlingit people of Alaska. The Raven totem was carved by four Tlingit carvers in 1964 and erected at UAS in 1993. In 2009 brothers Joe and T.J. Young were hired to carve the Eagle totem to honor the Tlingit sense of balance. 

University of California, Davis – Eggheads (Davis, CA)

Artist and UC Davis Professor Robert Arneson created these bronze sculptures in 1991. They’re considered to be humorous, edgy, and naughty. Their deep meaning is one of social, economic, and political issues. They are scattered all over campus, and some are in unexpected places that take people by surprise.

University of California, Los Angeles – Underground Tunnels (Los Angeles, CA)

The tunnels connect to a storage room under Macgowan Hall.
Photo Credit

Underneath the campus of UCLA lay a six-mile network of underground tunnels. They were created to run utility lines but now serve to transport goods and equipment while being protected from the elements. In the past, a few staff members would conduct tours of the tunnels for students, staff, faculty members, and even Boy Scout Troops!

University of California, Santa Cruz – Blue Whale Skeleton (Santa Cruz, CA)

Bronwen LeaCC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The Seymour Marine Discovery Center houses this impressive blue whale skeleton. It is one of the largest blue whale skeletons on display in the world, measuring 87 feet long and weighing 20,000 pounds. It was discovered on the beach near Santa Cruz in the 1970s. The skeleton is an attraction and educational tool.

University of Florida – Century Tower (Gainesville, FL)

The iconic landmark was built in 1953 and is 157 feet tall. It was made from brick and contains a carillon of 61, often played bells. The tower symbolizes the school’s academic excellence and rich history. The tower was built to celebrate the university’s centennial anniversary.

University Of Maryland – Jim Henson Memorial (College Park, MD)

This memorial honors the legacy of the legendary puppeteer Jim Henson. Henson is an alumnus of the school, and his bronze statue depicts him speaking with his most famous puppet, Kermit the Frog. The school fosters a community of culture and the arts.

University of Michigan – Michigan Stadium (Ann Arbor, MI)

Also called “The Big House,” the stadium is one of the biggest worldwide, seating over 107,000 visitors. Since 1927, it has undergone many renovations to create additional seating and enhance it. The facility is an important part of the school, its sports culture, and historic moments in college football.

University of Mississippi – James Meredith Statue (Oxford, MS)

Adam Jones, Ph.D.CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

James Meredith was the first African American student admitted into the University of Mississippi in 1962. Inspired by a speech given by JFK, Meredith courageously claimed his constitutional right by applying to the school. He was denied admittance twice and the federal government had to intervene for him to gain admittance. In 2006 Ole Miss commemorated Meredith’s significant accomplishment with a statue. He is truly a national hero. 

University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill – The Old Well (Chapel Hill, NC)

Jack a lanierCC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

This iconic landmark is at the heart of the campus. Historic buildings surround it. The well symbolizes good luck dating back to 1793. It’s a popular place for graduation photos and events. The school promotes the well’s history and continues to preserve its beauty. 

University of Notre Dame – The Golden Dome (Notre Dame, IN)

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The Golden Dome is one of the most recognizable landmarks at Notre Dame. It has a layer of gold leaf on the surface and has a 19-foot-tall statue of the Virgin Mary on top. Since 1882, the dome has symbolized the school’s religious traditions and academic excellence. It is a beautiful place for solace and reflection.

University of Pennsylvania – Morris Arboretum (Philadelphia, PA)

Daderot, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

This historic botanical garden has more than 11,000 labeled international flowers, trees, and plants. Across 92 acres, there are natural areas and impeccably landscaped gardens. Collectors of exotic plants named John and Lydia Morris began the garden in 1887. The garden opened to the public in 1933. The site offers tours and educational programs.

University of Utah – Red Butte Gardens (Salt Lake City, UT)

Daderot, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons

This botanical garden spans 100 acres and features hiking trails, natural areas, and curated gardens. It holds a diverse collection of trees, flowers, and plants from all over the world. Since opening to the public in 1985, it has become part of the school’s commitment to community outreach and natural preservation.

University of Virginia –  Memorial to Enslaved Laborers (Charlottesville, VA)

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The design team of Howeler + Yoon created this powerful piece in 2016. The creators carved 4,000 memory marks into the structure. This number represents the 4,000-5,000 enslaved people forced to work at UVA between 1817 and 1865. 

University of Wisconsin, Madison – The Red Gym (Madison, WI)

Also known as the Armory and Gymnasium, it is a historic building constructed in 1894. It is now the school’s home to many student services offices, including International Student Services. The landmark sits on the banks of Lake Mendota.

University of Wyoming – Breakin’ Through Statue (Laramie, WY)

The sculpture features a woman riding a horse and breaking through a sandstone wall. This significant monument celebrates women’s many accomplishments. Artist D. Michael Thomas created the piece of art in 2015. 

Washington University – Francis Olympic Field (St. Louis, MO)

Wash U’s primary football, soccer, and track and field stadium was the home of the 1904 Olympics. It was named after the former football player and coach James Francis. At one point, the facility could seat 19,000. The seating capacity was reduced to 3,300 in the ’80s.

Western Washington University – Rock Rings (Bellingham, WA)

One of WWU’s most interesting college landmarks is “Rock Rings.” Artist Nancy Hold began constructing the structure in 1977. The rings are 10 feet tall. The outer ring has a diameter of 40 feet, while the inner ring’s diameter is 20 feet. 

Willamette University – Mill Stream (Salem, OR)

Willamette is the oldest university in the West. In 1861 the school allowed a stream to be dug in the middle of campus to help provide power to a nearby woolen mill. The stream is in the shape of a “W.” One of the traditions at Willamette is to throw students into the stream on their birthday!

Other Notable Resources

The 50 Best College Student Centers

The 50 Best College Art Museums