Arthur Rose Museum
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The Arthur Rose Museum, originally known as Lee Library, like other early buildings constructed on the campus of Claflin University, was designed by African-American architect, William Wilson (1871-1949), who had been born in Greenville, South Carolina. He entered Claflin University in 1888 where he studied under Charles Bates, the first African-American registered architect in this country. After graduating from the university in 1893, Cooke studied at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Columbia University before returning to Claflin to earn his Bachelor of Science degree. For his design, Cooke used a unique multi-sided, T-shaped plan and characterized the exterior with distinctively delicate red brick work and terra cotta medallions and window details.
As Superintendent of the Manual Training and Industrial Arts Department, Cooke directed the construction of this building with student workers from his department. They were involved at all steps of construction, from laying the foundation, to making bricks in a kiln on campus and laying them for wall construction, to finishing the building. The structure thus served as a living laboratory of sorts, offering direct experience with the sorts of ideas students learned about in class. This experience, occuring particularly at a time when few African Americans had the opportunity to show their talents in designing such buildings, makes it all the more remarkable. It was hoped that such craftsmanship and professional expertise would help open doors to future educational and employment opportunities for the educated, skilled, and highly motivated descendents of slaves.
Funds for the building's original construction in 1898 were donated by Mrs. L. P. Bennett of Wilkesboro, Pennsylvania, one of many northern philanthropists who made generous contributions to the university when it was establishing its infrastructure and curriculum. From 2003 to 2005, Lee Library was restored. Changes included the removal of insensitive alterations (such as removing partitions and bathrooms installed years earlier when the building was converted to office and classroom space), the restoration of the original interior arch, decorative ceiling, and wood floor. A free-standing "skin," constructed six inches from the original walls, allow preservation of the interior structure while also providing a safe and sturdy place for art installation. Two fireplaces, moldings, lights, and the decorative ceiling remain exposed, and a decorative molding at the top of the high "skin" walls make the transition appear seamless.
On the exterior, all the brickwork, mortar, and windows are original. The brickwork and cornices were cleaned and restored, creating its jewel-like appearance. The roof was renovated with asphalt shingles and some of the fascia and soffits were replaced. This phase of careful restoration, both inside and out, has earned recognition by the preservation community. In 2005, the project received the South Carolina Historic Preservation Award from the Office of the Governor, the Palmetto Trust for Historic Preservation, and the South Carolina Department of Archives and History.
After this extensive restoration, the building was renamed in honor of Arthur Rose, '50, a nationally-known painter and long-time chair of the university's Art Department. As a faculty member, he had a significant influence on many students who themselves became noted artists, among them batik artist, Leo Twiggs.