Monday, November 28, 2016

The McIver House: Hospitality on Campus

In 1952, just sixty years after it was built, the McIver house was torn down to make room for new construction on campus.  Located on the corner of Spring Garden Street and College Avenue, the house held a central location on campus for more than half a century.
McIver House, c. 1900

Much of what we know about the McIver residence was recorded in several articles published by Woman's College graduate Virginia Terrell Lathrop (class of 1923) in the Carolinian, Greensboro Daily News, and Alumnae News.  Recently, SCUA archivists rediscovered her articles which contain interesting stories about the house and it's inhabitants.  Here are some highlights from her account.

In 1891, while the first buildings (Administration and Brick Dormitory) were erected on the site of what would soon by State Normal and Industrial School, Dr. McIver and his family lived in Benbow hotel in downtown Greensboro.  The NC legislature had not planned for a home for the McIvers, but in 1892 the Board of Directors approved money for an addition to the dormitory to house twenty-two more students and the construction of the President's home.  It was built using left-over materials from the construction of the Administrative Building and the Brick Dorm.  The building was completed in just six weeks.

At the time the college was built, it was at the outskirts of Greensboro and had no nearby housing for faculty.  The McIver family let some of them board in their home, which raised some question as to whether it was appropriate for the McIver's to let others stay in a home that wasn't theirs.  However, Lathrop uncovered reports to the Board of Directors that showed Dr. McIver paid $15 a month in rent, and one newspaper defended him, saying "so long as he paid his rent it was his own business whether he took boarders or not."

Ms. Lathrop described the house as a "spacious two-story ten room frame house" that "stood just inside the main gate of the college."  It was a place where the McIver's hospitality could extend far and wide.  They took in anyone who needed a place to stay, from visiting dignitaries to "Valentine," a tramp who jumped from a passing freight train on the on the February 14th.  He came to the McIver house offering to cut wood for a meal and stayed for a year, leaving as mysteriously as he came.

Other more distinguished guests to the McIver home included, Walter Hines Page founder of the State Chronicle newspaper in Raleigh, who delivered a speak at the auditorium entitled "Forgotten Man," and George Peabody, philanthropist and educator for whom Peabody Park is named.  Ms. Lathrop speculated that Governor Aycock spent the night with the McIvers when he visited campus after the Brick Dormitory fire in 1904.  He came to campus the day after the fire and was pleased to find the students "fully clothed and in their right minds."

The President's home served as a gathering place, but was first and foremost a home for Dr. McIver's family.  Two of the McIver children, Verlinda, who died in childhood, and Mrs. John Dickinson, where born in the house.  Mrs. Dickinson was married in the house and a wedding reception for the McIver's older daughter, Mrs. James Young, was held in the two living rooms.

After Dr. McIver's death in 1906, the legislature offered the home to Mrs. McIver for her lifetime. Ms. Lathrop says that Mrs. McIver would offer a place every year to one or two students at the college to help defray the costs and make the college experience more affordable.  She also claimed that, "over a long period of years [Mrs. McIver] gave a room and meals to a succession of students at the Negro A and T college, always keeping in touch with them after they finished college and when a number of them became teachers of their own race."  Following Mrs. McIver's death in 1944, the house was used as a dormitory for service-women returning after WWI to attend college on the G.I. Bill.

The McIver house was demolished in October of 1952.


McIver House in 1951, shortly before demolition

Monday, November 21, 2016

“A Noble Idea:” The History of Peabody Park (Part One)

Take a look at a campus map.  What strikes you about the physical layout of the school and its use of green spaces?  It is a campus that is filled with looping walkways, clusters of enormous oaks and pines, manicured gathering places, secluded benches and gardens, and pristine playing fields.  The largest open space at The University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG) is Peabody Park. The history of the Park’s development, design, and use mirror the school’s own growth.

Students Relaxing in Peabody Park



When the college was founded in 1891, UNCG (known at the time as the State Normal and Industrial School) was situated on ten acres of former farm land.  Recognizing the rapid growth in student enrollment and the need to construct future classrooms and student housing, the school’s administration made the decision to purchase 112 acres adjoining the property’s original footprint.  In 1895, the North Carolina Legislature appropriated monies to improve the condition of this new area, allowing for “the expansion of the institution on the only side not already occupied by residences.”  The Legislature also mentioned that a portion of the new land could be used as a park for open-air exercise, as well as for the study of horticulture.  Yet, the Legislature only approved half of the school’s request for $22,000 of improvements.  Nevertheless, the College immediately began to use this wooded space.  Under the direction of Dr. Anna Gove, the school’s physician, students were required to devote sixty minutes each day to walking in the new park.
 
Strolling in Peabody Park
The fortunes of the school and the newly acquired property changed in 1901 with the announcement of a gift of $10,000 made by George Foster Peabody, a distant relative of the more well-known George Peabody, whose Peabody Education Fund supported Southern public schools.  The New York financier designated $5,000 to be used for the development of an educational park and an additional $5,000 to meet other needs of the College. The donated monies were to be spent on beautifying the existing space and creating several miles of well-graded walking paths.  Moreover, the plan was that every hill, spring, or bench would be dedicated to a great educational leader or historic event.  Each location would be marked by a granite block with an appropriate description.  It was imagined that other private donors would give monies to create additional markers, as well as pavilions and rustic benches.




George Foster Peabody
In an October 1901 letter to President McIver, George Foster Peabody was pleased to hear that the Park would be officially named “Peabody Park.”  He modestly hoped that people would realize that it was in honor of his relative and philanthropist George Peabody, and not himself.  A number of North Carolina newspapers praised the construction of the educational park at the State Normal. The Raleigh-based newspaper The News and Observer declared that the Park was a “noble idea” that would forward the “civilization” of the state!  The Park project envisioned that students would be benefit from both open-air exercise and the educational content provided by the educational markers.  In turn, the well-educated women of the State Normal would enhance the civic life of North Carolina.



The next installment of “A Noble Idea:” The History of Peabody Park will cover the evolution of the Park from a place of strolling and reflection to one of recreational activities, open-air theatrical performances, and finally, institutional encroachment.


Monday, November 14, 2016

Faculty Service During World War II

On March 19, 1942, the News Bureau at Woman’s College (now UNCG) released a letter to faculty stating that the organization was “compiling information on the college’s contributions to the war effort.” The letter went on to request that faculty members respond with a list of their individual involvement in the war effort as well as the names of any relatives who were serving in the United States Military. The responses varied in their tone and complexity.

Guy Lyle
“As you know I am serving as state director of the Victory Book Campaign.” Library Professor Guy Lyle reminded crisply. “This takes up pretty much all of my leisure time.” Professor Lyle’s background as a librarian at numerous academic and public libraries made him an obvious choice for leading an organization whose mission was to boost the spirits of troops by providing them with reading materials.

Sociology Professor Mereb Mossman was even briefer in her response: “I am training chairman of the Greensboro C.D.V.O.” She was referring to the Civilian Defense Volunteer Office which was established in 1941 to keep up public morale and involve ordinary citizens in defense planning.

Mereb Mossman
Hygiene Professor Victoria Carlson wrote a long, detailed response to Nell Craig, director of the News Bureau. She explained that her brother was in the service and that she lectured to eight sections of her Home Hygiene and Care of the Sick classes. This class was modified to reflect wartime caveats. Many professors altered their classes during World War II in order to offer students and community members the skills that were needed for a nation at war.

In the same vein, Ruth Fitzgerald lamented that she was “physically unable to take on any extra work.” A professor of education, she joined Professor Carlson in increasing her work load on campus. These increases were sanctioned by Frank Porter Graham, President of the University of North Carolina System, who believed that heavy sacrifice was demanded of everyone in the university from the top down due to the war.

While some professors joined or led organizations and others taught additional classes, faculty contributed to the war effort in a myriad of ways. These paths to service could be as simple as knitting clothes for soldiers, planting a victory garden in the community, or as involved as joining the military themselves, something a few Woman’s College faculty actually did.

Victoria Carlson
This outpour of faculty support for the war effort, encouraged and facilitated by the university administration, is significant for two reasons. First, there is noticeable (public) unity among the faculty about the nation’s involvement in and goals for World War II, a feature that would be lacking in more recent wars, mostly noticeably the 2003 invasion of Iraq. Second, and perhaps more importantly, the involvement of students and faculty alike at an all-girls college demonstrates the social effects that the War brought to the United States. Necessity would shatter glass ceilings as women raced to fill the positions left behind by drafted men. Additionally, involvement of faculty in reaching and helping laymen and women on the home front enforced the image of Woman’s College as a source of civic communitarianism. The school’s service as a bridge between the citizens of the community and a wealth of intellectual, yet practical knowledge helped ready the school for its transition into a co-ed university in 1963, and will guide the university’s future well into the twenty-first century.


This post was written by UNCG alumni Joseph Winberry (Class of 2013).


Monday, November 7, 2016

William Jennings Bryan and His Unlikely Connection to UNCG

William Jennings Bryan was a politician and orator from Nebraska, but his name would become inextricably linked to the history of the State Normal and Industrial College (now The University of North Carolina at Greensboro). His connection to this Southern women’s college may seem unlikely as Bryan is best known for his role as a perennial presidential candidate for the Democratic Party (he was the nominee for the 1896, 1900, and 1908 elections), as well as his involvement with the “Scopes Monkey Trial” (The State of Tennessee v. John Thomas Scopes).


William Jennings Bryan, ca. 1896
His deep, commanding voice and passionate delivery, contributed to his reputation as one of the most celebrated orators of the era. But Bryan is associated with the College’s history because he delivered the commencement address to the class of 1894, and more importantly, because he witnessed the death of the school’s founder and first president, Charles Duncan McIver. The two men had met in 1894, two years before Bryan gave his famous “Cross of Gold” speech, securing him the Democratic nomination for the 1896 presidential election. McIver was so impressed with Bryan, that he asked him to speak at the school’s commencement exercises in May. Although McIver truly admired Bryan, he also believed that this “advertising scheme” would result in increasing student interest in his new college. His plan was successful, as the following semester State Normal received hundreds more applications than the previous year.



For the 1894 commencement ceremony, Bryan would share the stage with John B. Gordon, a Confederate General who had seen action at Antietam and Gettysburg and had led the last charge at Appomattox. Greensboro was thrilled at the news that the “silver-tongued orator” was coming to their town, and bedecked homes, storefronts, and streetcars in the school colors of yellow and white. The College’s flower, the daisy, was also used liberally for decoration.

Bryan spoke to an over-capacity crowd in the auditorium of the campus’ Administration Building (now the Foust Building). The stage was decorated with the Seal of North Carolina, and on either side of it, the seals of Nebraska and Georgia, honoring the speakers’ home states. Bryan’s political celebrity, charismatic personality, and reputation for dramatic speeches drew a record audience. The young women who attended the College were particularly thrilled with his appearance, as they thought that there was a strong resemblance between Bryan and McIver, their college president. Bryan spoke for almost two hours on one of his favorite themes – the reinstatement of silver coinage.

William Jennings Bryan (center) and Charles Duncan McIver (far right), ca. 1896

During the years after the 1894 commencement, McIver and Bryan continued to keep in contact. The men always met when Bryan visited North Carolina, and McIver made a point of being present at his friend’s speaking engagements when possible. In August of 1906, McIver traveled to New York to attend a reception honoring Bryan at Madison Square Garden hosted by the Commercial Travelers Anti-Trust League. It was at this event that McIver suggested that Bryan visit North Carolina in September for a whistle-stop tour of the state in September. Bryan had made whistle-stop campaigning popular during his presidential campaign of 1896, and his previous visit to the state had included over twenty North Carolina towns, where he gave political speeches from the back of a train.

Commercial Travelers Anti-Trust League Badge

On September 17, 1906, McIver caught the early morning train to Raleigh to meet the group who was traveling with Bryan back to Greensboro. The train stopped in Durham for Bryan to make a campaign speech and for the party to have lunch. After lunch, McIver complained of indigestion and acute chest pains, and returned to the train to rest. He died shortly afterwards. Bryan rushed to him when he heard the news and he, like his other companions, was “paralyzed with grief.”

Death Mask of Charles Duncan McIver


From the time that McIver died until the train reached Greensboro, the planned politically-based whistle-stop tour became a funeral procession. As there were many people awaiting Bryan at each scheduled stop, it was decided to continue the tour, but instead of campaign speeches, he spoke of McIver’s legacy to the state and to education.  When the train finally reached Greensboro, Bryan visited Lula Martin McIver to pay his respects and gave a memorial tribute for his friend that evening at the city’s opera house. The eulogy included an admirable portrait of McIver as an advocate of women’s education, and pointed to the college that he founded as his greatest monument. From that day on, Bryan’s name has been linked with McIver’s, and with the history of the College.

Monday, October 31, 2016

Ghosts of UNCG: A Special, Spooky Spartan Story!

To celebrate Halloween, we repeat this blog post, originally posted in October 2012 by Hermann Trojanowski, who retired from Special Collections and University Archives in 2013. We hope you enjoy this extra spooky Spartan Story.

Spencer Residence Hall
Tales have long circulated about the ghosts that allegedly haunt the campus.  In the late 1960s, the Spencer Residence Hall ghost was known simply as "The Blue Ghost" or "The Woman in Blue." In the early 1980s, students gave her the name "Annabelle," possibly alluding to the subject of Edgar Allan Poe’s classic poem "Annabel Lee."

Legend has it that Annabelle is the spirit of a student who hanged herself many years ago in one of the building’s bell towers; however, no such suicide has ever been documented.  A member of the residence hall staff reported that Annabelle had "appeared as a blue shadow" on two occasions in the Spencer’s main parlor and when the building was closed for the Summer in 1976, the same staff member heard the ghost "dragging something on the floor out in the lobby." There have been other reports of a blue haze passing by a second-floor laundry room and of objects being flung across rooms.

In South Spencer in the early 1980s, an apparition reportedly awakened two different staff member on two separate occasions by walking into their rooms. The building had been closed for vacations both times. It is not known whether this was Annabelle or another ghost or ghosts.

Mary Foust Residence Hall
Build in 1928, Mary Foust Residence Hall was named for Mary Foust Armstrong, daughter of the college’s second president, Julius Isaac Foust.  Mary was a member of the class of 1920 – she died in childbirth in 1925. Some believe that her ghost took up residence in the dormitory that bears her name, because rumors have floated around for years about random "unexpected crying" and "funny noises" on the hall’s second floor.  Mary Foust’s portrait, which had hung above the fireplace, disappeared some time back without a trace.  Another rumor about Mary Foust Hall was that in the 1950s, three nursing students hanged themselves from the rafters in the attic.  Investigations have shown that the structure of the beams would make hanging very difficult but still the rumors persist.

The campus' most well documented ghost reportedly inhabits UNCG (formerly Aycock) Auditorium, which opened in 1927.  An interview with Raymond Taylor who taught drama and play presentation and was the director of dramatic activities on campus from 1921 until his retirement in 1960, reveals that Taylor not only believed in the ghost of UNCG Auditorium, but recounts his personal experiences with the ghost. 

Raymond Taylor
According to Taylor, "at one time a sort of colonial mansion stood on the corner where Aycock is.  There dwelt in this mansion an old lady all-alone.  After a while she became extremely unhappy about her lonely state and went up in the attic and suspended herself from a rope on the rafters.  Having committed suicide there, she determined to stay on as a ghost.  When they tore down the building, she haunted the area for a long time until Aycock was finally built, and then she adopted that for her home.  She seemed, when I knew her to delight in the upper reaches of Aycock foyer where she assumed the guise of lights that flitted from ceiling place to ceiling place and dragging chains and clanking objects over the floor down in the lobby up to my office door."

Taylor goes on to tell the story of an incident that occurred one afternoon when he and the auditorium's janitor were working on the set for a play.  The whole building was locked up, and since it had been an extremely hot afternoon, he and the janitor undressed down to their briefs to work.  Taylor had left his clothes neatly in a pile.  During the afternoon, a storm came up that raged and roared for quite a while and after the storm was over, Taylor went upstairs to dress and found that his clothes had been disarranged.  He had been wearing a vest with a watch chain across it, and his watch chain had been arranged on the table in the form of a cross.  His other clothes were "helter skelter all over the place." Taylor just knew this was the work of the ghost of UNCG Auditorium.
UNCG Auditorium

Many nights, while working in the auditorium, Taylor would hear all sorts of strange noises.  He tried to explain some of them by saying that they were the echoes of passing cars or the reverberations of the passing trains shaking the building, but one night he and a colleague, Jimmy Hogue, were sitting in his officer around midnight talking.  Hogue was sitting with his back to the door.  All of a sudden the door opened, and a cold air came in, and they heard the receding clank of chains.  They got up and turned on the lights in the hallway and looked all over, but could never find an explanation for that occurrence.

Jane Aycock
Students have given the auditorium's spirit a name, Jane Aycock, and say that she is the daughter of the man for whom the auditorium was previously named; but Governor Charles Brantley Aycock, whose two wives bore him nine children, had no daughter by that name.  Supposedly she killed herself in the auditorium, a noose around her neck, her body dangling from the fly-loft over the auditorium stage. But the only deaths the auditorium has witnessed have been those acted out on stage, not over it.

According to an article in the Winston-Salem Journal in 1977, written when the auditorium was 50 years old and was getting ready to reopen after renovations, the drama majors were so attached to the specter that it became something of a tradition to introduce her to new students. "An unsuspecting freshman would be handed a lighted candle and shown the stairway leading to the attic, reportedly the ghost’s favorite turf.  Then the drama majors… would solemnly watch as the flickering flame floated away into the gloom.  They knew there was a certain spot in the attic where a draft always blew out the candle.  It would take a few minutes for the novice spook chaser’s eyes to adjust to the darkness.  Then, the victim would see a shape – a human shape – shimmering in the inky blackness.  The drama majors always got a kick out of hearing the screams that usually followed.  It’s surprising what a coat of luminescent paint can do for a manikin borrowed from the theater’s prop shop."

Monday, October 24, 2016

“Ready for Teddy:” Theodore Roosevelt's 1912 Campus Visit

While campaigning for the 1912 presidential election, Theodore Roosevelt embarked on a 22-town whistle-stop tour of North Carolina, arriving in Greensboro on April 22nd. Roosevelt’s exuberant and charismatic personality made him a natural campaigner, and he toured the country widely.

The Greensboro stop came only two months after he decided to "throw his hat into the ring" for the 1912 election. Roosevelt served as the 26th President of the United States, from 1901 to 1909, but opted not to run for another term. Instead, he groomed his close friend William Howard Taft to follow him in 1908. Yet after Taft won the presidency, Roosevelt became increasing frustrated by his conservative policies. He decided to challenge the incumbent for the Republican nomination during the 1912 presidential election cycle. Loosing the nomination to Taft, Roosevelt ultimately ran on the Progressive, or “Bull Moose,” Party ticket. His third-party candidacy split the Republican Party, allowing the Democrats to win both the presidency and Congress.

Theodore Roosevelt in Front of the Students' Building with State Normal President Julius Foust

But on this rainy April morning, Roosevelt was still a hopeful presidential candidate. Although his train was not scheduled to reach Greensboro until 2 o’clock, a crowd had begun to gather. As if on cue, when the train arrived at the station the rain stopped and by the time he began to speak, the sun was out. Addressing an audience of over 5,000 men and women, Roosevelt made a brief speech before traveling by car to the State Normal and Industrial College (now The University of North Carolina at Greensboro). In anticipation of his visit, 700 students donned their best white dresses and waited patiently in the auditorium of the Students’ Building. On his arrival, “Colonel Roosevelt” was introduced by his campaign manager, John Dixon. Perhaps a bit overwhelmed by his female audience, Roosevelt immediately stated, “I always had very great difficulty in speaking to young ladies.”

Theodore Roosevelt on a Later Whistle-Stop Tour to Greensboro, 1912*

Not surprisingly, he chose to talk about women’s education. Roosevelt praised the college for not only offering a teaching curriculum, but also business classes. Predicting that education would undergo significant changes during the next fifty years, he stressed the value of practical as well as cultural coursework for both young men and women. Typical of his pragmatic nature, Roosevelt believed that the goal was to be more efficient and “more fit to do the actual work of life.” Yet he also emphasized the importance of scholarship. An ardent naturalist, he specifically used the dogwood tree to make his point. Recounting his trip through North Carolina, he described the mountains as being “aflame with dogwood blossoms.” He counseled the students to appreciate nature and when possible, to put this appreciation “vividly and truthfully on paper, in books, and in magazines.” Before he departed, Roosevelt encouraged the young women to take advantage of their great educational opportunities, reminding them, “To you much has been given, and from you much will be expected.”


Students' Building at the State Normal and Industrial College

Roosevelt's choice to visit the State Normal was an interesting one, since his audience was not comprised of voters. It would not be until the 1920 election, following the passage of the 19th Amendment in 1919, that women could actually cast a ballot for a United States president. But on the afternoon of April 22, 1912, Roosevelt captivated his audience with talk of women’s education, the importance of scholarship, and dogwood blossoms.

*Image courtesy of Greensboro Historical Museum

Monday, October 17, 2016

Sports at State Normal

While competitive athletics are a major part of campus life at UNCG today, early students had to fight for their right to play ball. From its founding, the school (known at the time as the State Normal) emphasized physical activity and personal health. Curriculum in the first year of the school’s existence (1892-1893) included the Department of Physiology and Heath, which had two objectives: instruction in hygiene and an individualized program of exercise. A course in Physical Culture was actually required of all students. The work included gymnastics, calisthenics, and other exercises that were meant to promote the student’s general health and strength. 

Letter from a student to President McIver asking permission
to start a campus Athletic Association, 1898
Students, however, wanted opportunities for athletic competition, not just physical activity. The graduating class of 1900 convinced school president Charles Duncan McIver of the need for a campus Athletic Association and purposefully-built athletic grounds. The campus Athletic Association was formally established in 1900 (15 years before the students established their own student government). By 1902, it had adopted the motto “Athletics and active college work go hand in hand.” In a space that is now the site of the Petty Science Building, the women of the Athletic Association cleared and prepared playing grounds, marked the fields, and installed nets on four tennis courts and basketball goals.

The early Athletic Association, however, was purely intramural, with sponsored tournaments between the freshmen, sophomore, junior, and senior classes. As a student noted, “We were taught very strongly the evils that would come from interscholastic sports. This emphasis on winning at any cost was the worst.”

But, in spite of potential evils, a “College Team” was created in 1905 to bring together the best athletes regardless of class. That team, however, didn’t play outside of campus until 1907. Then, they traveled across town for basketball and tennis match-ups against teams from the Greensboro Female College (now Greensboro College). According to the student newspaper, “Fine playing was done by both teams … [but] both the games of Basket Ball and of Tennis resulted in victories for our teams.” This, however, was a one-time event.

Freshman hockey team, 1913
For the most part, team sports were limited to on-campus competitions between the classes. And the Athletic Association led the way in sponsoring these activities. By 1914, the group offered events in basketball, tennis, field hockey, baseball, cricket, golf, camping, and gymnastics. They also sponsored May Day, Field Day, and various sports tournaments throughout the year. Through their dedication and persistence, the women of the Athletic Association ensured that athletics would be a strong component of their college life.