Monday, June 30, 2014

William C. Smith: Friend of the Library

As you enter the workspace for acquisitions and cataloging staff on the second floor of the main building of Jackson Library, you will find a portrait as well as a plaque noting the dedication of the room "to the memory of William Cunningham Smith" ... "in the service of this college from 1900 to 1943." He's described as a "scholar, inspiring teacher, lover of books, and friend of the library." But Smith's contributions to the development of the school we now know as UNCG were even greater than the plaque describes.

Smith with his daughter Margaret, 1905
Born in Greensboro on April 19, 1871, Smith was the son of Samuel Cunningham Smith and Margaret Ella Cunningham Smith. His father actually served as the City of Greensboro's first superintendent of schools. Smith graduated with Bachelor and Master of Arts degrees from UNC Chapel Hill in 1896, where he also was inducted into the Phi Beta Kappa honor society. After graduation, he worked for four years at UNC as an instructor of history as well as English and pedagogy.

In 1907, he took on additional administrative duties as dean of the faculty, a role in which he served as the school's second in command, filling in for President Julius Foust during Foust's absences. With the college's administrative reorganization in 1922, Smith transitioned to the role of Dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. In this role, he advocated for broadening the school's curriculum beyond the existing "normal" (teaching) coursework and lead the push towards college accreditation. After resigning as dean in 1934, Smith continued serving as head of the English Department until 1938. He continued teaching English courses until two weeks prior to his death in 1943.

In addition to his teaching and administrative responsibilities, Smith served as chairman of the campus chapel and conducted services at a time when chapel attendance was a daily requirement for students. He also became well known in Greensboro as the teacher of a large men's Bible study class at the First Presbyterian Church, where his uncle had served for many years as pastor. He also traveled across the state as a lecturer on Biblical literature.

Smith was a frequent visitor to the college library, where he was known for his desire to read books from across all disciplines. His personal book collection was described as "one of the largest and finest libraries in the state." E.J. Forney, head of the college's commercial department and Smith's neighbor, noted that when Smith procured a new book, the lights "more often than not, were shining out of that study window at 2 o'clock in the morning." Smith was known for voraciously reading in preparation for each and every lecture he gave. The campus library and his own personal library served as the resources for his intense studies.

In spite of his service as a teacher and lecturer, most who worked with Smith described him as quite shy. Upon his death in 1943, a former colleague described Smith in a letter to the Greensboro Daily News: "Quietly, unostentatiously and modestly, Dr. Smith went about his business of living and of training, through lecture and through example, and influencing others in how to live. The lives of those who came in contact with him, including not only the friends and neighbors privileged to know him here and in his profession, but the endless line of students who knew and loved him as a teacher, constitute a more enduring memorial than pens and marble shafts can ever provide."

The portrait of Smith was presented to the University Libraries in May 1971 by Smith's family. At the time, the space in which the portrait resides served as a reading room, open for student use. Now, however, Smith -- a man known for frequent use of the library's resources as well as the development of his own personal library collection -- keeps watch over all of the materials moving in and out of UNCG's library.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Naming of Jackson Library

Jackson Library in the 1960s
When the State Normal and Industrial School (now the The University of North Carolina at Greensboro) opened in 1892, the library was confined to one small room, located on the upper floor of the Main Building (now the Foust Building).  The library collection was relatively small, consisting of only several hundred books.  By 1900, the collection had grown to over 3000 volumes and necessitated a move to a larger room in the Main Building.

In 1901, the President of the School, Charles Duncan McIver, asked philanthropist Andrew Carnegie for funds to build a new structure dedicated solely as a library.  The result was the construction of the Carnegie Library (now the Forney Building) in 1905 which become home to the library and its 5000 volumes.

As the student population grew, so did the size and importance of the Carnegie Library. By 1950 there were over 134,000 volumes within the collection.  Recognizing this growth, plans were discussed in the early 1940s for the construction of a larger library.  However, due to World War II and the restricted university budgets, there was never an opportunity to move forward with construction plans for a new library location.

Walter Clinton Jackson
In the late 1940s, however, it became evident that the current library would soon run out of space and could not adequately support the ever growing student population.  Consequently, funds were set aside by the administration for the construction of a new, larger library directly across from the current Carnegie Library. Construction began in September 1948 and finished in March 1950, at a total cost of $1.2 million dollars (or today $11.5 million dollars, adjusted for inflation). It officially opened to students in the fall of 1950 and was known as the Library Building.

That same year saw the retirement of school Chancellor, Walter Clinton Jackson.  Jackson was born in Hayston, Georgia on June 18, 1879.  In 1909, he joined the State Normal and Industrial College as a professor and later became head of the Department of History. In 1934 he was appointed the third Chief Executive of the College and would serve as chancellor for the next 16 years.

In an effort to recognize Jackson’s passionate dedication to the school and his long-term commitment to education and learning, it was recommended by the Board of Trustees of Woman’s College that the library be renamed on honor of him. In February 1960, the motion was unanimously passed for the Library Building to be renamed the Walter Clinton Jackson Library. 

Monday, June 16, 2014

Shall We Dance: Early Campus Formals

Senior Dance, 1939
When the North Carolina State Normal and Industrial School (now The University of North Carolina at Greensboro) opened its doors in 1892, its purpose was to train young women to enter the teaching profession. Social occasions were limited and there were no opportunities for the girls to attend campus dances. In the following decades, formal events were expanded to Literary Society banquets and commemorative school-related activities. In the 1920s, students were finally allowed to bring dates to their Literary Society banquets, but it was not until the 1930s that they were permitted to dance at these events. 
Senior Dance, 1950

It was a natural progression for Literary Society banquets to expand into full formal dances, but there were also class dances, Christmas and Halloween dances, and dances held by particular groups such as the Commercial Class and the Town Students. They usually incorporated  themes inspired by current events, such as the coronation of Elizabeth II of Great Britain in 1953, or popular songs, plays, and movies. Not surprisingly, the dances soon became elaborate occasions, which required committees to make sure every aspect of the event was perfect. Professional bands were hired, invitations were chosen, tickets were sold, and faculty was asked to be honorary guests or chaperones. Because in the early years the dances were held at the school gymnasiums, decorations were always a vital part of the planning. Crepe paper, colorful cut-outs, and props reflecting the dance’s theme helped transform the utilitarian space into a magical backdrop for their ball.

The high point of the event was the “figure” during which the dance chairmen and their dates participated in a choreographed entrance and dance while the orchestra played a song related to their theme. Campus dances reached their zenith in the 1950s, but as the college became part of the larger University of North Carolina system and male students arrived in 1964, students became less interested in school traditions, including formal events. Fewer dances were held and they eventually became more informal occasions. However, many alumnae who attended the school in the early years remember these dances as highlights of their college experience.

Semi-Formal Dance, 1966

Monday, June 9, 2014

Saving the Chancellor's House

In last week's blog, we discussed the concept of adaptive reuse and gave some examples of its employ here on UNCG's campus. This week we'll look at an adaptive reuse success story that could have only happened through the joint efforts of the wider UNCG community and Historic Preservation groups.

Designed by Harry Barton of Greensboro and built in 1922, the President's Residence (as it was then called) served as home to almost all the heads of the college and university from Foust through Sullivan. When the University began leasing a home to serve as the new Chancellor's residence in 1996, Chancellor Sullivan moved to the Sunset Drive house and left the old Chancellor's house without a resident or purpose for the first time in its existence.

Chancellor's Residence, ca. 1960
The Chancellor's residence at Spring Garden St. had been in need of repairs and updates before Chancellor Sullivan's arrival at UNCG, and by 1999, the situation had worsened to the point that the board of trustees voted to demolish the house. It was thought that the cost to renovate the house had become too great and that, ironically, there was more value in the land it was on for "green space and future expansion for a signature building."

Very shortly after the decision to demolish the house was announced, a movement started by Carolyn Maness (Alumna-1946) and Jean Gordon (Professor of History-Emerita) sought to try to save the house from being destroyed. Gathering the forces of UNCG alumni, a letter-writing campaign ensued which helped to slow the demolition process. During this time also, help to save the house was recruited from Preservation North Carolina, a private non-profit statewide historic preservation organization. With their help, a compromise was reached to save the house.  If the money could be raised to move and renovate the house, there was a possibility of saving it. The estimate to move and renovate was set just at 2 million dollars and those interested in saving the house had just under a year to raise that sum.  Meanwhile, other interested groups, such as Preservation Greensboro, Inc. and current students of the University joined in the effort to raise the money. An "Afternoon on the Lawn" event was staged by UNCG student groups to encourage awareness and donations.

House on the move, June 2003
A large part of the success of the project was the clear vision for the new use of the house. Many alumni had suggested the house could be used as an admissions and vistors center, and with the blessing and support of their families, it was decided that the house would become the Jane Harris Armfield and Emily Harris Preyer Admissions and Vistors Center, named after two alumnae who had supported the preservation effort. This clear vision for the purpose of the building was an important factor in raising funds for the move and renovation. Preservation North Carolina leased the house from the University in late 2002 for a period of two years, which allowed them to move and renovate the house.

Over several weeks in May-June 2003, the house was lifted, moved, and re-set at its current location at 1400 Spring Garden St, just 900 feet from its original location. Renovations began immediately and continued through the end of 2004. The house was turned over to the University in January 2005 and The Jane Harris Armfield and Emily Harris Preyer Admissions and Visitors Center was officially dedicated in May 2005.

Armfield-Preyer Center, June 2005 (photo-UNCG Image Collection)
The Chancellor's house is an example of what can go right when communities work together for a greater purpose. Alumni, students, faculty, the wider UNCG community, and preservationists succeeded in what, at times, seemed an impossible task. The house, once deemed an insignificant building not worth saving, has been transformed into a focal point on campus. That transformation began with the effort to educate the community on the history of the building and its architectural merits. It continued with the effort to reach out and find donors and willing partners to help with creative alternatives to save the building. Adaptive reuse became the mechanism by which the house found new life as our Admissions and Visitors Center.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Building Recycling at UNCG

Like most universities, UNCG's campus has grown and expanded over time. This growth usually involves the periodic building of new structures necessary for all the various activities on campus. Spaces for teaching, learning, living, eating, researching, health services, recreation, and even all the support services, such as facilities and grounds, have to be accommodated in a campus setting. We tend to think of our buildings on campus as having fixed uses, but that frequently isn't the case. As some buildings grow older, they are no longer suitable for their original purpose. The very difficult decision then comes when a new building is built to replace an older one. Fortunately, many times the answer can be found in re-purposing the older building. This kind of refurbishing an old building to fit a new purpose is adaptive reuse. In effect, it's the recycling of an old building, instead of demolishing it, when it no longer fulfills its original purpose, but is still worth saving.

Foust Building, 2010 (Photo-UNCG Image Collection)
There are many reasons why saving an old building is preferable to demolition. One of the most obvious is the building may be deemed important for its own aesthetic, cultural, or institutional importance. The oldest extant building on campus, Foust, would fall into this category. Built in 1892, and expanded in 1895, Foust (then known as Main) was a jack of all trades building. It housed the library, classrooms, offices, and auditorium, and a gymnasium. The building is an iconic symbol of the university and underwent a window restoration in 2008 to restore its exterior appearance, among other upgrades. Foust is now home to various campus offices. Other examples of adaptive reuse at UNCG include (but are not limited to): Forney, which was a Carnegie library and is now used for campus IT, Curry, which served as a training school, Petty, which housed the science departments for many years, the Chancellor's house, now serving as the Admission's office, and the Brown Music building, which is used for various offices.
Aside from saving buildings deemed worthy due to their significance, there is research that shows that adaptive reuse, when done correctly, has considerable benefits and advantages from an environmental standpoint. Architect Carl Elefante said in his 2007 article titled, "The Greenest Building...Is One That Is Already Built," that, "Taking into account the massive investment of materials and energy in existing buildings, it is both obvious and profound that extending the useful service life of the building stock is common sense, good business, and sound resource management. To fully capture the value of the existing building stock requires merging two disciplines: historic preservation and green building."1

Forney, 2011 (Photo-UNCG Image Collections)

Recent research is proving this true. A 2012 report from the National Trust for Historic Preservation's Green Lab finds that- 1) building reuse typically yields fewer environmental impacts than new construction, 2)  adaptive reuse provides substantial absolute carbon-related impact reductions when done on a large scale, 3) new construction green buildings can take 10-80 years to compensate, through efficient operation, for the climate change impacts created by their construction, and finally, 4) buildings that tend to use the fewest materials have the most significant environmental savings.2