Hitting the Books! Colleges and Universities in the Records of the National Register of Historic Places

Today’s post is by John LeGloahec, Archivist in the Electronic Records Division at the National Archives in College Park, MD.

women in classroom, knitting, New York University
Colleges and Universities – New York University – New York University knitting course (National Archives Identifier 26427369)

August is the traditional time of year when students head off to college (and regular school).  There are a number of college and university properties in the National Register of Historic Places (NRHP).  My older son is a rising senior and he/we are beginning the process of figuring out where he might go to college.  He is not sure where he will go, or 100% sure of what he will study, or what he will do with his free time, but I’m pretty sure he’s not a knitter like the ladies pictured above.

Connecticut Hall, Yale University
Yale University (National Archives Identifier 135801906)

I don’t think that he will go Ivy League (although both of my parents went to Brown University), but I understand that New Haven, Connecticut is very nice. “Yale University is the third oldest institution of higher learning in the United States, having been founded in 1701 and preceded only by Harvard (1636) and William and Mary (1693). Connecticut Hall is Yale’s oldest surviving building and continues in active use at one of the nation’s outstanding universities. At first the college was housed in wooden building; but, as it expanded, a row of brick buildings of Georgian style replaced them. Connecticut Hall was the first of the brick structures, and, of the original “Brick Row,” it alone remains. Yale spared no expense in the construction of Connecticut Hall and for many years it was probably the handsomest building in the colony.”

“Connecticut Hall, built in 1750-52, is an altered example of a conservatively designed Georgian structure. It is also Yale’s oldest extant building and only surviving example of an eighteenth century structure. Connecticut Hall, sometimes called Old South Middle, was the first of Yale’s brick buildings, and was built under the direction of Francis Letort of Philadelphia and Thomas Bills of New York. In size and arrangement, Connecticut Hall is a close parallel to Massachusetts Hall at Harvard, which was built in the Early Georgian style in 1718-20. The erection of Connecticut Hall had its inception in 1748 when the directors who “had concerted and drawn a Lottery whereby they had raised the sum of 5400 Pounds in bills of Old Tenor” ordered that there be “a new College House built with brick of 105 feet in length, 40 in breadth and 3 stories high beside the Garrets, with a cellar under the whole house.” . . . Another major operation followed fifty years later in 1952-54, when the interior was entirely gutted and a new set of modern rooms was built inside the brick shell. The building remains in that form today, housing faculty, seminar and freshman reading rooms.”

Men working on roads, Cornell University
Cornell University Grounds (National Archives Identifier 169136874)

There are also several great colleges in New York State (where I went to college), including Cornell University, which “owes its existence to the intellectual and financial generosity of Ezra Cornell. A self-made and wealthy man by 1862, Cornell knew how difficult it was for poor boys to obtain a good education. In particular, he realized that training even in agriculture and the trades was largely beyond the reach of poorer youths. When the Morrill Act of 1862 was passed, Cornell instantly comprehended that the purpose of the land-grant act coincided with his own thoughts. Moreover, the act inspired him to contemplate practical means of bettering educational opportunity.”

One of the academic buildings on Cornell’s Campus, “Morrill Hall stands at the southwest corner of the original campus quadrangle and was first known as Building No. 1, or South University Building. The University named it after Justin S. Morrill, the author of the Morrill Land Grant Act of 1862, in 1883. The building is a solid structure that looks as if it will endure for all time . . . The interior of the building, unlike the exterior, has been changed since 1868, but its basic structure has not been altered. Originally, the structure served as a combination dormitory, classroom, and administration building. Today, Morrill Hall is used by the Department of Modern Languages and the Department of Psychology. Despite an early Cornell professor’s statement that the building, plus some other early structures, could only be improved by dynamiting them, Morrill Hall exemplifies that thought that Cornell and White created an institution that was to be as enduring as that solid stone edifice.”

Men and Women playing tennis, Talladega College
Talladega College, Tennis Practice (National Archives Identifier 26174831)

He might do some sports in college (he is a big fan of rugby), but maybe he would like to try tennis at Talladega College.  “The Talladega College campus, located in the city of Talladega, is situated on the western edge of the central business district on a plot of land that originally expanded 260 acres and today includes over 129 acres. The campus is bounded on the north, west and east by low-income, residential neighborhoods and on the south by the Helen Keller School for the Deaf and Blind.”

“Talladega College evolved from a one-building campus in 1867 to a multi-building, liberal arts institution predominately for blacks. Creation of the campus culminated in the building boom under President Sumner (1916-1932) and the Colonial Revival structures built by Joseph Fletcher (the last of which was Derricotte House, 1941). The period of significance extends from c. 1852 with the construction of Swayne Hall to the completion of Derricotte House in 1941. Despite a history of inadequate funds and of social burdens, Talladega College developed into a significant institution of higher learning. Further, a dichotomy of basic education principles—industrial versus liberal arts education for blacks—existed in the state. Therefore, despite severe handicaps, Talladega College remains a physical symbol of the struggle to gain the education previously denied blacks in Alabama.”

University of North Carolina building
University of North Carolina (National Archives Identifier 135803710)

My son might try an institute of higher learning in the Carolinas – and if my wife and I come to visit him in North Carolina, maybe we can stay at the Hotel Hadley, “one of the most elaborate eclectic Victorian commercial buildings with Eastlake detailing built in downtown Siler City during the early years of the twentieth century, the Hotel Hadley also features architectural elements most often associated with domestic Queen Anne design.”

“The Hotel Hadley was built by leading Siler City businessman F. M. Hadley during the early years of the twentieth century as that small Chatham County community was experiencing its first concentrated period of growth and urban development. Siler City, not incorporated until 1887, was a small, but quickly growing central North Carolina manufacturing town during the late nineteenth and early twentieth century just before the construction of the Hotel Hadley. The city had a population of only 254 in 1890, but by 1900 the number of people living in the city had almost doubled to 440. More importantly, a wide variety of manufacturing plants were being established in the city. These plants were being established in Siler City because of the town’s good transportation facilities, provided by Southern Railway Company, and because the surrounding rural area, which did not offer the economic advantages of growing urban areas, provided a good supply of labor. Although North Carolina’s agricultural production increased during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, this aspect of the state’s economy was characterized by the continued reduction in the size of farms. Many small farmers found it difficult to survive in their former profession and turned to the state’s industrialized urban centers for work. In 1900, several textile and furniture plants, as well as grain mills had been established in Siler City and by 1907, the year in which construction of the Hotel Hadley began, the city’s population was approaching 1,000.”

Clemson College (University) Administration Building
CLEMSON AGRICULTURAL COLLEGE, CLEMSON COLLEGE, S.C. Administration Building (National Archives Identifier 86717171)

If he were to choose South Carolina, he could try his hand at agriculture at Clemson.  The Clemson University Historic District (National Archives Identifier 118996530) “includes seven historic resources associated with the establishment and development of Clemson College from 1836 to 1940. The district includes three academic buildings, a residence and associated office, and an outdoor theater . . . It is significant for its association with the Calhoun and Clemson families and for its association with the founding, development, and growth of Clemson University, which has played a major role in higher education in South Carolina since its founding in 1889. The district is also significant as an intact collection of late nineteenth and early twentieth century educational buildings at a state-supported land grant university.”

The Clemson campus includes “Fort Hill (c. 1803), the home of John C. Calhoun and later of his son-in-1aw and founder of Clemson, Thomas G. Clemson, Fort Hill was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1960 [and] John C. Calhoun Office (1825)[, which] is a component of the Fort Hill National Historic Landmark” . . . Also found on the campus is “Hardin Hall (1890): Originally known as the Chemistry Building or the Chemical Laboratory, the oldest college-built building on the Clemson University campus was built in 1890.”

Bowdoin College sketch, Brunswick, Maine
Bowdoin College, Brunswick, Maine (National Archives Identifier 135802859)

In my youth, I spent summers in Maine and there are a number of great colleges in the Pine Tree State, including Bowdoin College in Brunswick. “On June 24, 1794, the Massachusetts Legislature passed an Act giving official approval to the proposed creation of Bowdoin College. On May 17, 1798, the Boards of the College (Bowdoin was governed by a relatively uncommon dual board system), voted to build the first college building . . . The Bowdoin College trustees owned five townships in north-central Maine. They hoped to sell these townships and use the money thus obtained to finance the college’s construction and academic programs. In 1801 the trustees were fortunate in being able to sell two of the five townships they held (Foxcroft and Dixmont) . . . Massachusetts Hall is located on the Bowdoin College Campus on the south side of Bath Street, between Main and Sills Streets. Set among the famous Bowdoin pines, the hall is accessible by footpath only . . . Massachusetts Hall is still used today as a dormitory facility.” Colleges and Universities are popular places for presidents and political candidates.  It allows for the opportunity to reach new, young voters.  In 2011, President Obama spoke at Georgetown University.  On the campus of Georgetown is the Healy Building, “a Victorian structure in Northern Romanesque style – complete with towers, dormers, tall chimneys’ and spikey finials and is one of the most significant landmarks in Georgetown . . . Georgetown University, one of the oldest Catholic academic institutions in the United States, was founded by the Reverend John Carroll (1735-1815) who was born in Upper Marlborough, Maryland. Carroll was educated as a Jesuit at Lieges in Belgium and ordained as a priest . . .  Georgetown was selected for the location of the new school probably because the site was on land which overlooked the Potomac and thus was high enough to receive cooling breezes, was free from malaria, and was near Holy Trinity Church (under construction at the time). Although the deed was not delivered until January 1789, the first campus building was probably begun in the summer of 1788 and ready for occupancy in 1791.”   

President Barack Obama with students at Georgetown
President Barack Obama Speaks at Georgetown University (National Archives Identifier 176546620)

So get out there are enjoy that college experience!

This post is part of an ongoing series featuring records from the National Register of Historic Places (NRHP) and National Historic Landmarks Program Records, 2013 – 2017 (National Archives ID 20812721), a series within Record Group 79: Records of the National Park Service.