Council of Independent Colleges Historic Campus Architecture Project


Wilson Hall

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Institution Name: Converse College
Original/Historic Place Name: Main Hall Main Hall
Location on Campus: center of front campus
Date(s) of Construction and Designer(s):
1889-1890original construction Unknown
1892-1893reconstruction after fire Bruce & Morgan
Type of Place: Individual building
Style(s): (Glossary)
Foundation: brick
Walls: brick
Roof: shingle (towers); flat-seamed metal; tar; gravel
ca. 1890administration
ca. 1890classrooms
ca. 1890residence hall (faculty and students)
ca. 1890dining hall
ca. 2004-present (2007)dining hall (Gee Dining Room)
ca. 2004-present (2007)theater (Hazel B. Abbott theater; Laird Studio theater)
ca. 2004-present (2007)admissions office
ca. 2004-present (2007)administration

Significance: architecture, education
Landmark designation:
National RegisterConverse College Historic District (1975)
Narrative: see below
References: see below

When Converse College began its first session in October 1890, Main Hall was the only building. During the 1890s additional buildings were added on either side of Main Hall to form a line that now dominates the Front Campus. These early structures still retain their original appearance more than 100 years later. The entrances to some buildings have been modified to meet modern codes, and some have had extensive interior renovation. As enrollment grew, a new Back Campus was created behind the original buildings. The oldest of these structures dates from 1912; the newest will be completed during 2003. All buildings are in good to excellent condition.

Today Converse College continues to occupy its original site on property which has always been used for education. Prior to the Civil War, the property was the location of several attempts to establish an Episcopal school, first for boys, and later St John's Theological Seminary. The Main Hall of St. John's Seminary had been partially completed when the Board of Directors of Converse College purchased the property from the Episcopal Diocese in 1889. Since that time, the site has been used for the education of women. In the light of the current trend toward co-education, this represents a significant commitment and achievement.

In January 1892 a fire destroyed the Main Building. The cornerstone of the present building was laid April 21, 1892 on the site of the burned structure. The exterior of Main Building, renamed Wilson Hall in 1929 in honor of the first president of Converse, B.F. Wilson, is similar in design to that of the original Main Building. During Converse's formative years, Main Building served as a center for the school's activities as well as providing dining facilities, faculty and student living quarters, classrooms, and administration offices.

I. Bibliographic sources:

Eaddy, Mary Ann. Converse College Historic District. National Register of Historic Places designation report. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of the Interior/National Park Service, 1975.

Kibler, Lillian Adele. The History of Converse College. Spartanburg, SC: Converse College, 1973.

Willis, Jeffrey R. Converse College: A Pictorial History. Spartanburg, SC: Converse College, 2001.

II. Location of other data:
University: Library, Facilities Management Office

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Last update: November 2006