Council of Independent Colleges Historic Campus Architecture Project


Main Building (unofficially called "Old Main")

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Institution Name: Wofford College
Original/Historic Place Name: "The College" until about 1900
Location on Campus: College Dr. (239 N. Church St., Spartanburg, SC 29303-3663)
Date(s) of Construction and Designer(s):
1851original construction Jones, Edward C.
1960renovation Unknown
Type of Place: Individual building
Style(s): (Glossary)
Foundation: none specified
Walls: wood frame (original); local hand-fired brick (walls); white stucco (facing); steel frame (current, after 1960s renovation); concrete block (current, interior); wood (current, interior)
Roof: none specified
1851-present (2007)faculty offices
1851-present (2007)classrooms
1851-present (2007)chapel
1851-present (2007)auditorium

Significance: architecture, culture, education, history, religion
Landmark designation:
National RegisterWofford College Historic District (1974)
Narrative: see below
References: see below

When he laid the cornerstone of Wofford's Main Building on July 4, 1851, President William Wightman expressed the hope that "the college structure which is to rise in majestic proportions and elegant finish on this foundation will combine Temple and Academy, will be sacred at once to religion and letters."

Many features of Main Building remain unchanged from the structure that Wightman knew during his presidency. The front (south) side of the building retains its distinctive Italianate bell towers and wide portico. The original college bell still hangs in the west tower. A memorial plaque (with the misspelled word "benificent") in the foyer honors founder Benjamin Wofford.

Main Building was designed around "the chapel" by the noted Charleston architect Edward C. Jones, and the auditorium was dedicated as a place of worship during the college's first commencement exercises in June 1855. The present name was approved by the Board of Trustees in 1946 to honor a significant benefactor, the Reverend George Clark Leonard (class of 1895). The beautiful Holtkamp organ honors the memory of Dr. William Preston Few (A.B. Wofford, 1889; Ph.D. Harvard, 1896), the first president of Duke University. Many famous Americans have spoken in the Main Building auditorium, including Presidents Woodrow Wilson, Gerald Ford, and George H.W. Bush.

Portraits of the college's nine presidents, arranged in chronological order from right to left, hang in Leonard Auditorium. The newest addition is the fine portrait of President Emeritus Joab M. Lesesne Jr., by Anne Kenyon of Jacksonville, FL. A particularly interesting and valuable portrait is Albert Caper Guerry's painting of James H. Carlisle, with a campus landscape in the background. In 2002, this painting underwent a complete restoration at the North Carolina Museum of Art.

While it is undoubtedly an important historic landmark, Main Building is much more than that to members of the Wofford community. Dr. Lewis P. Jones '38, Kenan Professor Emeritus of History, expressed those feelings years ago: "Main Building testifies to the continuity of an institution whose honors are numerous and whose pride is based not only on the worldly success of its graduates, but also on their character. Its roots are deep; its twin towers high."

Friends of the college are now raising funds for a major renovation of "Old Main." Much has already been done to restore the building's exterior, and significant attention has been given to the surrounding landscaping.

From the National Register report:

The three-story masonry building has a massive portico supported by giant order square columns with wide steps leading to the second floor main entrance. The gabled roof central section contains the college auditorium with classrooms and offices below. Twin towers with hipped roofs frame the portico of the Main Building. The west tower contains the bell which has rung for the changing of classes since the building was completed. Large hipped-roofed three-storied wings adjoin the central section and contain classrooms on the north side and offices on the south. The structure was stuccoed around 1880.
A major renovation in 1960 gutted and rebuilt the interior. While the exterior appearance was basically unaltered, some changes were made. The front steps were widened according to the original never-completed design, and ground floor entrances for the winds were moved from the south to the north. The auditorium was extended on the north side and a simple portico was constructed to shelter the exterior stairs and to provide a focal point for the mall area on that side of the campus. The building has a black standing seam roof.

I. Bibliographic sources:

Brabham, William H. Wofford College Historic District. National Register of Historic Places designation report. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of the Interior/National Park Service, 1974.

Mills, Lane. Architecture of the Old South: South Carolina. New York: Abbeville Press, 1984.

Wallace, David Duncan. The History of Wofford College, 1854-1949. Nashville, TN: Vanderbilt University Press, 1951.

II. Location of other data:
University: Special Collections
Government Offices

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Last update: November 2006