The Oxford Area Community Theater resides in the Oxford Community Arts Center, which began life as the Oxford Presbyterian Female Institute. The Oxford Female Institute was founded by John Witherspoon Scott in 1849, with the building going up in 1850. At that time most institutions of higher education, including Miami University, were for men only. Scott had been the first professor of science at Miami University, although he was fired by then Miami president George Junkin in the early 1840s for opposing Junkin’s proslavery views. After teaching in Cincinnati for a few years he returned to found the Institute. Scott’s daughter Caroline attended the school and during that time met Miami University undergraduate Benjamin Harrison, who she married after graduating in 1853. Harrison went on to become the 23rd President of the United States, and Caroline Scott Harrison became a first lady known for her involvement in the arts, women’s rights, and historic preservation. In 1890 she became the first president of the Daughters of the American Revolution.
In 1867 the Institute merged with the Oxford Female College and took on that school’s name. In 1906 the name changed to the Oxford College for Women. Miami University absorbed the Oxford College for Women in 1928 (Miami had become co-educational in 1902 as a result of the Ohio Sesse Bill), and turned the building into a women’s dormitory. Miami refurbished the building and gave it its current Georgian exterior, and the local Daughters of the American Revolution chapter raised money to add a ballroom in honor of Caroline Scott Harrison. For the next sixty years it was known colloquially as “Ox College”.
Miami University closed the Oxford College Dormitory in the late 1980s and the structure sat vacant for several years. In August of 1997 the Oxford Area Community Theater board first suggested to the City of Oxford that the former Oxford College building might be an ideal location for a community arts center.
Since 1998 the Oxford Community Arts Center has provided Oxford with a theater, a ballroom, classrooms, and dance and art studios. It has become a popular venue for weddings as well as musical and theatrical performances. OxACT is proud to call this historic building, with its connection to education and inclusivity, our home.
Timeline of the Creation of the Oxford Community Arts Center