Rowan Oak – the internationally recognized home of Nobel Prize-winning author William Faulkner – has quietly moved to a far more popular and easily accessible piece of digital real estate with a new address: rowanoak.com.
The relocation of this celebrated University of Mississippi-owned property in Oxford, Mississippi, to a more visible corner of cyberspace occurred thanks to a gift of the rowanoak.com domain name by Peter Askew of Atlanta, Georgia, a UM alumnus and Faulkner fan.
While the 176-year-old Greek Revival house has had a presence on the internet for many years, information about Rowan Oak was difficult to find because of the many pages on the UM Museum and Historic Houses website.
Making web searches for information even more difficult was the fact that the iconic home had a “dot-edu” web address instead of a “dot-com” address.
“It’s difficult to over emphasize how important Peter’s gift of the rowanoak.com domain name is to the university and those who admire the life and work of William Faulkner,” said William “Bill” Griffith, curator of Rowan Oak.
“This new domain name puts us right at the very top of every internet search for information about Rowan Oak and enables us to greatly enhance and expand our website.”
In October 2020, UM unveiled a vibrant rowanoak.com site containing much more information and features.
“This investment in an improved Rowan Oak website would not be possible without having the dot-com domain name,” Griffith said. “We’re off to a great start and will make Peter proud to have given this domain to us.”
The gift reflects two of Askew’s primary passions: being a professional builder of dot-com businesses and a 1995 graduate of the university’s Southern Studies program.
After completing his degree, Askew eventually settled in his hometown of Atlanta and in the late 1990s, he became interested in the role an attractive domain name played in the success of startup web enterprises.
“The industry fascinated me, and I started paying attention to the expiring domain names market,” Askew said. “Every day, anywhere between 50,000 and 100,000 names expire, and while 99.9 percent of them are junk, sometimes you find one that is a diamond in the rough. And when I identify one of those, I build a boutique business around it.”
Askew created one of his first successful domain name-based businesses around vidaliaonions.com, which is a seasonal farm-to-door company shipping sweet Vidalia onions grown in Vidalia, Georgia, to customers nationwide. This year he and his farmer partner shipped 32 tons of Vidalia onions to customers.
Now, Askew is launching a new business centered on another recently acquired domain name, birthdayparties.com.
“My wife, Sara, and I have a nine-year-old daughter, Sloane, so we’ve been reintroduced to the whole birthday party experience,” he said. “I found there wasn’t a place online where I could find out what amenities the more than 100 birthday-party event venues in Atlanta offer.”
During searches of domain names, Askew also kept an eye out for sites associated with his alma mater. While the rowanoak.com domain was owned by someone, it was not active.
He negotiated to acquire the name and has since devoted some of his free time for more than a decade to creating the site.
“I tried to make it a good resource for visitors and those interested in Rowan Oak and then it started taking on a life of its own,” he said. “Anytime a national magazine or media outlet, such as Southern Living or the New York Times, published an article on Rowan Oak, Faulkner or literary tours of the South, they would link to my website and the site would be hit with an enormous amount of traffic.
“It was fun, and I just held onto it until it ended up in the right hands. When university representatives asked whether we could work together, I said, ‘I would love to work with you to get this domain back underneath the oversite of the university.’
“So now, the university is putting in a lot of time and resources into rebuilding the site into something I could never have built. The site looks beautiful and truly represents this unique property.”
The Friends of the Museum funded the design and launch of Rowan Oak’s new website, which provides information about Faulkner, the house and grounds, and the Bailey Woods area surrounding Rowan Oak. While the new site is already “live,” new features will gradually be added.
In the near future, rowanoak.com will feature a “store” where visitors and Faulkner enthusiasts will be able to purchase merchandise and tickets to tour the house, Griffith said.
“This new site allows us to add a lot more details that we haven’t had online,” Griffith said. “It brings us into a modern age so individuals will be able to purchase tickets, buy unique items and obtain directions, while also helping our visitors and Faulkner fans to be better informed and perhaps even more eager to come by Rowan Oak and interact with us.”
Considering that Rowan Oak annually attracts tens of thousands of visitors from around the world, the site is expected to help a variety of online viewers, said Rob Jolly, managing associate director of development for the University Museum and Historic Houses.
“Faulkner fans live across America and all over the globe,” Jolly said. “This site provides a platform for us to connect with a diverse group of individuals who share a love and affinity for Faulkner’s literature.
“It also gives Faulkner fans the opportunity to provide financial support to preserve the treasure that is Rowan Oak. We are excited about the possibilities and look forward to engaging with generous donors worldwide.”
For more information on supporting Rowan Oak and the University Museum and Historic Houses, contact Rob Jolly at firstname.lastname@example.org or 662-915-3085 or visit https://www.rowanoak.com and https://give.olemiss.edu.
By Jonathan Scott