Monday, October 29, 2018

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 22, 2018

Student Life at Ye Junior Shoppe

Today, UNCG students can find small shops selling snacks and other sundries in various places across campus. But in the earlier years of the university, the on-campus shopping options were significantly fewer - and often run by the students themselves.

In 1913, the junior class decided to raise money to support their annual banquet and dance through sale of hot soup, hot chocolate, and sandwiches from a small basement kitchenette in the Curry Building. Both college students and students at the Curry School were able to purchase these lunches. Each item cost five cents. This was a time consuming job, however, and in the late 1910s, they shifted their focus to a small stand in the campus post office that sold pennants, hairnets, and other small items. The stand, which was dubbed Ye Junior Shoppe, also served as a site for coordinating the development of film.

Entrance to the Junior Shoppe,
Administration Building (now Foust)
Dormitory-based shops were the next evolution in student-led campus stores. One junior in each dormitory would serve as an in-residence sales person for high-demand items like hairpins. The stand in the campus post office continued as well. A poem in the January 22, 1921 issue of The Carolinian student newspaper advertised the shop:

Patronize "Ye Junior Shoppe" at all times,
Save up your nickles and your dimes,
To buy of its many wares and novelties,
You can get necessities and frivolities,
And too, it is so near at hand;
Right in the post office is the Junior Stand.

In the 1922-1923 school year, President Julius Foust allowed the junior class to open a formal store in a designated location on campus. The shop operated in some years in the Students' Building; in others it had a space in the Administration Building (now Foust). They sold items including snacks, camera film, hair nets, picture postcards of campus, memory books, and college rings. In its first year of operation, the shop made a profit of $800.

Over the years, the inventory of the store grew.. In 1931, the shop installed tables and chairs and began selling sandwiches and cold drinks. By the mid-1940s, it was so successful that the store's annual profit grew to nearly $12,000. In a 1990 oral history interview, Margaret Daniel Wilkerson Thurston (class of 1949) noted, "the room probably should have held twenty people, and there would be two hundred in there." Chancellor Walter Clinton Jackson argued that this was more money than the junior class needed, so, in 1945, the college took over operations of the shop.

Students at the Soda Shop, 1955
Renamed the Soda Shop, it moved in 1948 into a new building on College Avenue. This building was located on the former site of the Wooden Dormitory (also known as Little Guilford), which had just been demolished. Profits from the Soda Shop were used to finance student scholarships.

1949 also saw the demolition of the old Students' Building and, soon after, the construction of the new Elliott Hall, which opened in 1953. In the early 1960s, Elliott Hall added a small cafeteria, which was also known as the Soda Shop. The next-door soda shop building was then transformed into a faculty center in 1963.

Monday, October 15, 2018

Lucy Robertson: Academic and Activist

While Lucy Henderson Owen Robertson (1850 – 1930) was a member of the staff of State Normal and Industrial College (now UNC Greensboro) for only a short time, she made a lasting impression on the college, the city of Greensboro, and education in the South. Robertson was born in Warrenton, North Carolina, but grew up in Hillsborough, attending Miss Nash and Kollock’s School for Young Ladies, then Chowan Baptist Institute (now Chowan University). Robertson liked to tell the story of when, as a young girl, she visited a palmist who told her fortune. When the woman read her palm, she said that Robertson’s heart and head line were parallel, and it was hard to tell which was longer. She determined at an early age, that it was her heart line.


Lucy Robertson

In 1869, she married Dr. David A. Robertson and moved with him to Greensboro, raising two sons. Perhaps unusual for women of her time, she had a career in academics.  In 1875, she took a position at Greensboro Female College (now Greensboro College) as an assistant in the Literary Department, then head of the English Language and Literature Department. She became a widow at thirty-three years of age and dedicated the rest of her life to teaching.


In 1893, Robertson was enticed to accept a position at the State Normal to teach in the Department of English and History. When the school opened in 1892, this was a combined department, but it was eventually split into separate areas and Robertson became the head of the newly established Department of History. The fact that she was made department head reflects college president Charles Duncan McIver’s willingness to hire women for important positions. McIver may have also liked the fact that she was a native of North Carolina. During the early years, the College took pride in recruiting its professors from the South, specifically North Carolina.



State Normal Faculty, ca. 1893. Lucy Robertson is on the far right




 Described as “tall and graceful, well educated, well-traveled, and vitally interested in people,” Robertson was an immediate favorite with the students of State Normal. She developed a curriculum for the History Department that stressed a “familiarity with the great names and events” and a chronological sense of history. She particularly emphasized Greek and Roman history, medieval history, English history, and U.S. history. The Department used textbooks in all classes, but also encouraged “topical study, parallel reading, and independent research in a library.”



Robertson only taught seven short years at the State Normal before returning to Greensboro Female College in 1900 to accept the position of Lady Principal, and then President. In fact, she became the first woman to hold the office of college president in the state and in the South. She remained President until 1913, when she made the decision to return to teaching. Robertson also spent time traveling both in the United States and overseas, visiting eleven countries.


Annual History Department Report written by Lucy Robertson, 1898

In 1917, as the country began to mobilize for World War I, Robertson was appointed to the Executive Council of the North Carolina Division of the Woman’s Committee.  Specifically, she was chosen as Chair of Child Welfare.  She was considered to have the credentials and experience to be an effective state representative and the connections to recruit students and faculty from North Carolina’s well-established network of women’s colleges for war work.

Robinson was also involved in spheres beyond academics, becoming involved in many organizations and president of the Western Conference of the Women's Foreign Missionary Societies, the United Society of Foreign and Home Missions, and a member of the Woman's Christian Temperance Union, the Methodist Episcopal Church, and the Woman's Club of Greensboro.

In her later years, she continued to work, teaching “Bible and Religious Education” at Greensboro Female Academy until a few days before her death in May of 1930. She died in the infirmary of Greensboro College. She was buried in Green Hill Cemetery, Greensboro.

Monday, October 8, 2018

The Curry School: Practice Teaching on Campus

On February 18, 1891, the North Carolina Legislature passed "An Act to Establish and Normal and Industrial School," officially chartering the institution that would become UNC Greensboro. As the State Normal and Industrial School, the institution focused heavily on training women to become teachers in North Carolina's public schools. As part of this training, the institution established a practice school so that students could gain practical classroom experience as part of their education.

State Normal opened its practice and observation school in 1893 under the direction of Philander P. Claxton. Initially, the school had ten pupils, with ages ranging from five to eight. Two of these pupils were the children of State Normal president Charles Duncan McIver. Classes were held in rooms within the Wooden Dormitory, one of two student residence halls on the State Normal campus.

Curry School students, circa 1910
By 1898, the practice school student body had grown to nearly 200 pupils, and the school was officially incorporated into the Greensboro public school system. The Wooden Dormitory building also grew to accommodate the expanding student population. Meanwhile, McIver and others at State Normal advocated for funding to build a separate building on campus to hold the practice school.

In 1902, that goal was finally achieved and the new practice school building opened. Named after Jabez Lamar Monroe Curry, who helped advocate for the founding of the State Normal, the practice school building was located on College Avenue. With the new building came even more growth in the practice school student body. Beginning in 1913, the Curry School added each year a new grade from eighth to eleventh (which was at the time the state's standard senior year). It produced its first high school graduating class in 1917. Due to interruptions from World War I, however, Curry School would not graduate another class until 1927.

In the mid-1920s, construction on a new and more modernized Curry School Building on Spring Garden Street began. As the new building was nearing completion in 1926, the original Curry building on College Avenue burned to the ground. Faulty electric wiring and poor original construction were to blame for the fire. The portico framing the front entrance to the building was the only part of the structure to survive. It remained in place for over a decade, with students referring to it as "the ruins."

Curry School students, circa 1940
By this point, well over a third of the juniors and seniors at the college (known in 1926 as the North Carolina College for Women) were education majors. Many others majored in a specific subject area but planned to teach high school after graduation. The Curry School population also grew, with an enrollment of 402 students in December 1928. A kindergarten was added in 1935 and the twelfth grade of high school in 1946. Total enrollment at the Curry School, however, remained steady, due primarily to the size of its building. In 1944, the school reportedly had a lengthy waiting list and rejected numerous applicants.

By the 1950s, the number of students at Woman's College who needed practice teaching experience greatly outpaced the ability of the Curry School to offer them on-campus opportunities. More and more students found these experiences in other local public schools. Additionally, the facilities at the Curry School had deteriorated to the point that a candidate for the school's deanship in 1958 proclaimed it the worst he had ever seen.

A state bond referendum in 1959 helped improve the physical plant. The repairs and additions included the construction in 1961 of Park Gymnasium next door to the Curry School Building. But by this time, the small student body and the limitations in offerings for high school students (both varieties of classes and extracurricular activities) started to impact the school. Additionally, Curry's operating costs per pupil were almost double that of the other nearby public schools.

Curry School students, 1970
Outside consultants and an education faculty study in 1966 all recommended closure of at least the high school at Curry. Robert O'Kane, dean of the School of Education, agreed and the high school officially closed in 1969. The elementary grades (kindergarten through sixth grade) followed in 1970. Today, the Curry School building remains on Spring Garden (although the Park Gymnasium was razed in 2004 to make way for the Moore Humanities and Research Administration Building).

Monday, October 1, 2018

History of the Virginia Dare Room (Alumni House)

In 1937, the Alumnae Hall at the Woman’s College (now UNCG) opened to much fanfare and excitement across the campus. Designed by Penrose V. Stout of Bronxville, New York, and modeled after Homewood in Baltimore, Maryland, it was originally called the Alumnae Hall. The name was changed to the Alumni House in November 1972.

Baptism of Virginia Dare
One the distinguishing features of the House is the large ballroom, which today is more commonly referred to as the Virginia Dare Room. The historical title for the room is in direct reference to the large mural over the fireplace that depicts the baptism of Virginia Dare, the first English child to be born in the United States, in 1587. The idea for the mural dates to March 1936, when the Alumnae House Building Committee was planning the interior layout for the house.

Following the resignation of Miss Elizabeth Thompson as the contracted interior designer for the House, the committee voted to hire J. Frank Jones, Inc., from Richmond, Virginia. At his first official meeting with the group on March 2, 1936, Mr. Jones presented to the committee a photograph of the Baptism of Virginia Dare, which had been given to Miss Clara Byrd, the Secretary of the Alumnae Association. Mr. Jones was charmed with the picture and suggested to the committee that it would be perfect, when enlarged and hand colored, to display as a mural over the fireplace mantle. The image he presented to the group was of a painting originally given to the North Carolina State Historical Commission in April 1930 by National Society of The Colonial Dames of America in The State of North Carolina. Mr. Jones also suggested finding a second painting that could be a companion piece to the Virginia Dare mural.
The committee members were very impressed by the beauty of the picture and thought that Mr. Jones’ idea was an excellent recommendation. At the following meeting on March 16, 1936, Dr. Julius Foust, the Chancellor of Woman’s College, presented to the committee a letter by Mr. Jones. In it, he recommended using the Baptism of Virginia Dare and The Croatan Tree as companion mural pieces in the Alumnae House. It was of his opinion that both images were visually decorative and of historical value. He further noted that he had found an artist willing to paint them for $150 each, which he described a “ridiculously low.”

After a short discussion, the committee formally voted and approved the commission of the murals at the recommendation of Mr. Jones. However, rather than using state funding for the project, which would have resulted in a formal competitive bidding process, Dr. Foust suggested that outside monies should be raised for the paintings.

Although the two large murals have hung in the Virginia Dare Room since the House opened, the room was not always identified by them. Originally, the room was referred to in meeting minutes and in correspondence as the “large reception hall.” It was not until the May 29, 1948 meeting of the Alumnae Association that the name Virginia Dare Room first appears. The reasoning for this nomenclature shift is absent from the minutes, however it was likely done to recognize the importance of the mural in the room. Today, the Virginia Dare Room hosts many UNCG activities including lectures, board meetings, and public forums as well as external events such as weddings.