Monday, August 11, 2014

Greensboro Got the Girls ... Now Where Do We Put Them?

In last week's Spartan Story, we looked at the decision to name Greensboro as the site for North Carolina's newly-created State Normal and Industrial School. Greensboro citizens were happy and excited -- while those in other towns also in contention for the institution were not so pleased. Greensboro won the right to host the new school by pledging $30,000 along with a site for the campus's development. But the offer alone didn't mean that the money - or even the land - was in hand.

In July 1891, shortly after being awarded the school, a committee was formed to drum up citizen support for a bond referendum to be voted on in late July. The bonds would allow citizens to support the city's efforts to raise the $30,000 pledged to the state. The committee proved successful in its campaign as 771 citizens voted in favor of the bonds; no votes were cast opposed.

State Normal's first president, Charles Duncan McIver,
pictured here in his office in the Main Building in 1895
That night, a "rousing meeting" was held at the Greensboro Court House. The chief speaker was Charles Duncan McIver, who had been selected by the board of directors to be the first president of the new State Normal and Industrial School. McIver "fervently proclaimed his faith in the future progress of the State through the education of its women. He expressed complete satisfaction with the Board's selection of Greensboro for the school, praising its climate, accessibility and its fine public spirit." Likewise, the Greensboro correspondent to the Raleigh News and Observer reported that "Greensboro was delighted with President McIver, and glad to know that he is soon to be one of us."

The issue of raising $30,000 through bonds proved simpler to resolve than that of finding and selecting a site for the school. A number of sites around town were suggested as possibilities. The Steel and Iron Company offered two sites - one directly on a rail line just over a mile outside of town and one within the city limits on Church Street. Another site offered, known as the "Brick School Site," was located about 100 yards west of Greensboro Female College (now Greensboro College). Another site known as the "Tate Site" was also just west of Greensboro Female College on West Market Street.

Ultimately, in November 1891, the site that was selected was one referred to as the "Pullen Site," located about a half mile west of Greensboro Female College on Spring Garden Street. This site was also within view, but not directly on, the railroad line. Two Raleigh real estate speculators and philanthropists, Richard Stanhope Pullen and Robert T. Gray, donated the ten acres that would house the school. The land sat just inside of the city's corporate limits, adjacent to a farm owned by the Reverend R. R. Moore.

Epps & Hackett's original architectural renderings for the
Main Building and Brick Dormitory at State Normal
With a site selected, the board of directors hired Greensboro architects Orlo Epps and C.M. Hackett to design two large brick buildings for the campus. One building was to house the school's academic functions and the other to house its students. Contractor Thomas Woodroffe was brought on to build the structures. Epps and Hackett chose to design the two buildings in the Romanesque Revival style which had been made popular at the time by architect Henry Hobson Richardson.

Main Building was constructed to house the president's office, 10 classrooms, the library, a small gymnasium, and an auditorium/chapel. Originally referred to as the "matron's hall" or the "living building," the second structure is most often referred to as Brick Dormitory. Located approximately where the current McIver Building stands, Brick Dormitory contained a kitchen, a dining room, and living spaces for the student body.

After more than a year spent planning the new school and constructing its facilities, the State Normal and Industrial School officially opened its doors for an initial class of 198 female students from across North Carolina on October 5, 1892. The Brick Dormitory was destroyed by a fire in January 1904. But the Main Building, which was renamed in 1960 to honor Julius Foust, the second president of the school, remains in use primarily for classroom and academic office space. It was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1980.

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