Arthur F. Conrad Formal Gardens
The Arthur F. Conrad Formal Gardens have been on Miami’s campus since 1931. Established by the groundskeeper, Arthur F. Conrad, they were part of his mission to turn Miami University into one of the most beautiful college campuses through enhancing the natural appeal of the land. These gardens followed the national trend of the City Beautiful movement. In an effort to draw away from the industrialization of the new modern cityscape, many cities chose to add gardens and parks to bring nature back into an increasingly urban society. When the gardens were originally planted, they were located next to Fischer Hall, which was a residence hall for Miami students. It was while young students were living there in the early 1950s that the rumors of the hauntings of the Formal Gardens started. Late at night, many students claimed that they heard a phantom in the gardens, and several young men would wait in the gardens at night to try and catch it. It is a little known fact that buried in the Formal Gardens is the body of the first president of Miami University, Robert Hamilton Bishop, which may have been the foundation for the ghost stories circulating around the gardens.
To commemorate the first president, the Highland Pipes and Drums of Miami University donated the Bishop Memorial Stones. Since Bishop was an immigrant from Scotland, the Highland Pipes and Drums brought several stones over to Miami’s campus from his homeland to create a circle of remembrance for the university’s first president. After retiring from Miami University, Bishop went on to become the headmaster of Farmer’s College in College Hill, Ohio, where he died ten years later, and was buried with his wife on their grounds in a mound of earth in what became known as “Bishop Mound”. His remains were then relocated to Miami’s Formal Gardens on June 20, 1959, over a century later. These stones are located inside the Conrad Formal Gardens, at the end of a long line of trees and serve as a place for students to contemplate and reflect in a peaceful and serene environment.
Inside the gardens, there is the rose garden section was donated to the gardens by the Beta Epsilon Chapter of Gamma Phi Beta in honor of their centennial anniversary in 1974. For years, this garden has been used for leisurely walks and picnics, and today many Miami Mergers and alums come to have their wedding ceremony hosted in the Formal Gardens. For many students, this place serves as a location for enjoying what nature has to offer, and they will regularly spend their time relaxing on hammocks and picnic blankets in and around the gardens. In 1974, the gardens were formally dedicated to Conrad at a ceremonial banquet that he attended. These gardens stand as a lasting tribute to Arthur F. Conrad who was responsible for the landscaping and grounds development in Oxford.