Monday, December 30, 2013

Happy Holidays!

The staff of the Martha Blakeney Hodges Special Collections and University Archives wishes everyone a happy holiday season! We're taking a break this week, but please join us on Monday, January 6th for a new Spartan Story.

Spencer Residence Hall in the snow, 1950

Monday, December 23, 2013

Happy Holidays!

The staff of the Martha Blakeney Hodges Special Collections and University Archives wishes everyone a happy holiday season! We're taking a break this week and next, but please join us on Monday, January 6th for a new Spartan Story.

Foust Building in the snow, 2000

Monday, December 16, 2013

Minnie Lou Jamison: the second line of defense

Minnie Lou Jamison, a native of Rowan County, was one of the 225 students who entered the State Normal and Industrial School (now UNCG) when the doors opened in the fall of 1892. From Scotch-Irish descent, Jamison attended a local academy in her native Rowan County and taught school for several years before applying to State Normal. In 1896, she accepted a faculty position in the Department of Home Economics.

Minnie Lou Jamison
Jamison focused her efforts on the school’s Home Economics Department until 1915 when she was given a leave of absence to accept a position as a home demonstration agent for the North Carolina Department of Agriculture. This position grew out of the Smith-Lever Act, which had been established the previous year as a system of “cooperative extension services” to inform people about developments in home economics, agriculture, public policy, and other related topics. In her new position, Jamison formed rural women’s clubs to study foods and elevate knowledge of healthy diets, meal efficiency, and food conservation. She traveled to the most rural areas of the state, convincing women of the benefits of “simple home conveniences” such as fireless cookers, similar to a modern crock-pot.  At the request of many of these women, she wrote several pamphlets including “Plans for Community Club Work in the Study in Foods and Household Conveniences,” which saw three printings. This government publication was distributed throughout the United States in addition to many foreign countries.

On April 6, 1917, President Woodrow Wilson declared war on Germany. The same year, Jamison was called back to the college to help with mobilizing the home front, the “second line of defense” of the War.  At the suggestion of Herbert Hoover, who was then the national food administrator, Jamison taught a ten day course in food conservation at the college. She began to give similar presentations to women throughout the state. Jamison reached over 18,000 women with her 200 demonstrations. These classes included canning, meat substitutions, creating recipes for cold dishes and balanced meals, and demonstrations of drying fruits and vegetables. She designed a community food dryer for her demonstration classes, and then shared it with the Women’s Defense League of Guilford County. It was estimated that more than 1500 pounds of fruit and vegetables were conserved in the dryer.
World War I Food Preservation
On May 14, 1918, Jamison became the secretary of the North Carolina College Volunteer Workers and of the Women’s Land Army. She rallied hundreds of girls throughout the state, creating units at most of the colleges, including the State Colored Normal School in Fayetteville, now Fayetteville State University, which was commended for bringing in members of the community to learn canning and food preservation.  These girls were asked to work within their communities to upgrade the standards of living, including recruiting well-trained teachers for state schools, assisting in the state’s farm work, and general community upkeep. An interesting part of this work was the early assistance of the state’s “mill girls,” who were an overlooked demographic. Young volunteers assisted these girls by forming reading circles, creating libraries, teaching music education, and even giving them helpful hints in making their clothes and hats. At State Normal, Jamison organized the students to preserve the food harvested from the college farm and to ration it for school use.  When the War ended, Jamison continued to work with rural women throughout the state through the Home Demonstration Extension division of the college. 

The Lady with the Powder-Puff Hair
Then it all ended. A nearly fatal car accident in June of 1922 kept her convalescing until 1924. When she returned to the college, which had since changed its name to the North Carolina College for Women, she did so as a freshman counselor. Jamison was extremely popular with the students, believing that “her girls could do no wrong.” She was well-liked with the students’ dates as well who would bring her favorite flowers and chocolates as a bribe to put in a good word for them. As these students graduated and forged out on their own, many still kept in contact with Jamison, still seeking her sage advice accompanied by her “quick wit and chocolates.”

Jamison went into semi-retirement in 1936, but continued in a part-time capacity as the head of the Student’s Building and counselor of social activities. She became known affectionately to her students as “the lady with the powder-puff hair,” noting her beautiful white hair. She loved social activities and into her eighties Jamison attended all of the college dances in a simple black velvet dress. Always entertaining, as well as modest, Jamison joked that she was glad that she had an “average” mind so that when she began to lose it, it wouldn’t be so noticeable.

Jamison dedicated her entire life to service and to the school. To show its appreciation, in the spring of 1939, the college named a residence hall in her honor. That same year, the students dedicated the school’s yearbook, Pine Needles, to her. Minnie Lou Jamison died in January of 1948 at the age of eighty-one, and was memorialized for her kindness, her sense of humor, and her love of flowers and music. But perhaps her greatest contribution was her push for improvements and modernizations in rural North Carolina, her innovations in food conservation, and her work in mobilizing the state’s second line of defense during a war that was to end all wars.  

Monday, December 9, 2013

Warren Ashby Residential College

Today's Spartan Stories post was written by Sophia Kranz, a graduate student in UNCG's Library and Information Science department. In Fall 2013, Sophia interned in Special Collections and University Archives, processing a number of collections, creating finding aids, and developed an online exhibit on the history of computing on campus. The Warren Ashby Residential College Records, an archival collection Sophia processed during her internship, provided historical information for this post.

Located in Mary Foust Hall, the Warren Ashby Residential College is among the oldest continually operating living-learning communities in North Carolina. Wanting to keep the intimate academic experience at the university, “Residential College” was founded in 1970 by the Dean of Arts and Sciences Robert Miller and Professor of Philosophy Warren Ashby. In developing the residential college, they stressed the need for a community and wanted to develop a strong connection between liberal studies and community life, where its residents form a unity of academic and social experiences.

Instruction in Warren Ashby Residential College
Admission into the residential college is by invitation through student applications. The college wants a representative group of the entire class, academically, ethnically, economically, and by gender. Ashby students are offered priority access to an in-house academic program which focuses primarily on fulfilling the UNCG General Education Curriculum (GEC) requirements. Ashby provides a setting that encourages innovative study, small classes, unity of academic and social experiences, and close student-faculty contacts. The program is intended to challenge students to think critically and systematically about a variety of relevant issues and to link their academic fields to societal challenges. Students are usually confined to their freshman and sophomore years within the college due to more specialized studies in the student's junior and senior years. Following the two year stay in the residential college, most of Ashby's students become student leaders on campus and to achieve academic honors.

Mary Foust Residence Hall, circa 1973
The ARC offers a unique experience of having small classes held within in the building in relaxed environments, faculty offices, and having live-in faculty members. This results in a close knit community allowing its students to freely explore their academic, service, and social interests. Students are also encouraged to be a part of committees within the ARC and campus wide to develop leadership skills and collaborative learning opportunities.

On September 6, 2007, the UNCG Board of Trustees voted to officially name the residential college program in memory of Warren Ashby, who taught at the university for more than 30 years and was the first director of the residential college.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Mourning the Legacy of Chinqua Penn Plantation

Exterior of Chinqua Penn

Like a scene from Citizen Kane, in April 2012, a public auction was held to sell hundreds of items from Chinqua Penn Plantation. Spanish religious sculpture, jade and quartz statues from the East, Italian Renaissance furniture, 16th century stained glass windows, rare books, rugs and tapestries – a life-time of collecting by the original owners of the house.  This sad chapter in the fate of a once grand manor would take place minutes away from The University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG), which at one time had been closely involved with the history of the estate. Between 1959 and 2006, this beautiful mansion, located outside of Reidsville, North Carolina, was in the care of UNCG. The home and its almost 1000 acre grounds were given to the Consolidated University of North Carolina, which included the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, North Carolina State College (NC State), and Woman’s College (now UNCG), on October 20, 1959. This large and generous gift was accepted at a formal presentation ceremony by then Governor Luther H. Hodges on behalf of the university system and the people of the state of North Carolina. There were twenty Woman’s College students assisting at the presentation wearing their class jackets.

Woman's College students attending the presentation

The university system initially saw Chinqua Penn as a top tourist destination and a research center. UNCG would manage the house and NC State would develop a beef cattle and crop research center and operate a 4-H Club camp by the 25 ½ acre lake. The home was also seen as a perfect location for North Carolina students to study art and interior design. It was a treasure trove of architecture and decorative arts; a culmination of years of travel and collecting by Thomas Jefferson “Jeff” Penn and his wife Margaret “Betsy” Schoellkoph Penn.  Mr. Penn was a native of Reidsville and a descendant of both William Penn and Thomas Jefferson.  Mrs. Penn was from an affluent New York family that helped harness power from Niagara Falls. The family pedigrees were buoyed by serious tobacco money. The management of tobacco interests in the East as well as three world tours gave the Penns an ideal platform from which to amass their extensive collection. To house these treasures, the Penns built a thirty-room mansion created from the stone that surrounded the land. It was decorated in an eclectic style with art and architecture from every corner of the world, including a full size stone and timber pagoda. Completed in 1925, they named the “plantation” Chinqua Penn, which was a combination of their family name and the chinquapin, a species of the American chestnut tree, which was indigenous to the area.

Interior photograph showing art treasures

The Penns had always intended to give the plantation to the state of North Carolina and when Mr. Penn passed away in 1946, Mrs. Penn began to make plans for the estate.  When she formally presented the home and grounds, worth over $6,000,000 in 1959, to the state she also gave the university system more than $750,000 to maintain the home and its vast farmlands, orchards, lakes, forest, and livestock. Provisions in this gift stated that she be allowed the status of lifetime tenant, giving her full rights to the property until her death and that after twelve years, if the management of the estate became “unfeasible,” the university system could dispose of the property as they saw fit.
For twenty-five years after Mrs. Penn’s death in 1965, UNCG and NC State oversaw the operations of Chinqua Penn.  Management and economic challenges faced by operating the estate, as well as over $2,000,000 in estimated repairs, forced the UNCG Board of Trustees to close the house to tours in 1991. A non-profit agency quickly formed in an attempt to keep the home open to the public, but “lack of funding, economic conditions, and debt” required them to give up the endeavor in 2002.

Gardens surrounding the house

Chinqua Penn’s fortune seemed to change when in 2006, Calvin Phelps, a local businessman also involved in the tobacco industry, purchased the home and 23 acres of land from the university system for $4,100,000. He immediately opened it for tours and planned to expand the use of the property to include a winery, overnight lodging, corporate conferences, and weddings. NC State continued to retain the Penn 4-H Educational Center. By 2012, besieged by financial and legal troubles, Phelps was ordered by the United States Bankruptcy Court to sell Chinqua Penn’s art, artifacts, and furnishings during a two-day auction in Greensboro, North Carolina. The items sold for more than $3,000,000, which was funneled to his many creditors. Some of the objects were purchased by Lindley Butler on behalf of the Museum and Archives of Rockingham County. On September 18, 2013, Chinqua Penn went into foreclosure, with SunTrust Bank purchasing the property for $1,400,000. The house now stands empty - its treasures dispersed and its future unknown.