Council of Independent Colleges Historic Campus Architecture Project


Little Theatre

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Institution Name: Hollins University
Original/Historic Place Name: Little Theatre
Location on Campus: 8002 Quadrangle Dr.
Date(s) of Construction and Designer(s):
1924original construction Frye & Stone
1958conversion Unknown
1977renovation Unknown
Type of Place: Building group
Style(s) of majority of buildings: Beaux-Arts classicism, Colonial revival
Style(s) of minority of buildings: not applicable
Building group type: none specified
Relationship to landscape:
none specified
Ideas associated with building group:
none specified
ca. 1924classrooms
1924-present (2007)theater
ca. 2004-present (2007)other (offices)

Significance: architecture, culture, education, history
Landmark designation:
Narrative: see below
References: see below

Hollins' 550-seat proscenium theatre was constructed in 1924 at the height of the "Little Theatre" movement and was lauded that year by the New York Drama League as "the best equipped theatre south of Washington." Built in the Federal Revival style, the Theatre's front façade features a Greek revival portico with full-height Corinthian columns and pilasters. Hanging on the walls to the left and right of the stage are two Flemish Renaissance tapestries. To the left is a 16th century work representing Remus and Romulus being cast into the Tiber River; the tapestry bears the mark of the city of Brussels and the monogram of the weaver. The tapestry to the right is a 17th century representation in which the Emperor Marcus Aurelius is being persuaded by his friends that the study of philosophy might impair his health.

The Hollins College Little Theatre was built as the result of a student-initiated fundraising drive for a building that would contain a gymnasium and swimming pool on the ground floor and a theatre above. Student interest in dramatic production had outgrown the small stage and cramped audience area of the gymnasium-auditorium in the basement of the Charles L. Cocke Memorial Library, and just before the Christmas break in 1922 a notice appeared on the bulletin board: "If you have the Hollins spirit, come back after Christmas with a pledge of $30 or the $30." Alumnae and others soon became interested in the fund raising effort, which was so successful that it resulted in two separate buildings: the Little Theatre and Tayloe Gymnasium. The students raised $45,000, two-thirds of the money required to build the Theatre. An article in the December 1924 Little Theatre Monthly described the Hollins Little Theatre as "the most perfectly designed and appointed playhouse in any college or university in America…with dimensions that shame those of more than one well-known professional theatre in New York."

I. Bibliographic sources:

Meredith, Molly. "An Historical and Architectural Guide to Hollins College." M. L. S. thesis, Hollins College, Roanoke, VA, 1997.

Niederer, Frances J. Hollins College: An Illustrated History. Charlottesville, VA: University Press of Virginia, 1973.

Vickery, Dorothy Scovil. Hollins College, 1842-1942: An Historical Sketch. Roanoke, VA: Hollins College, 1942.

Whitwell, W. L., and Lee W Winborne. The Architectural Heritage of the Roanoke Valley. Charlottesville, VA: University Press of Virginia, 1982.

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

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