Council of Independent Colleges Historic Campus Architecture Project


Biddle Memorial Hall

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Institution Name: Johnson C. Smith University
Original/Historic Place Name: Biddle Memorial Hall
Location on Campus: 100 Beatties Ford Rd. Building no. 1
Date(s) of Construction and Designer(s):
1883original construction Unknown
ca. 2003renovation Unknown
Type of Place: Individual building
Style(s): (Glossary)
Foundation: concrete; brick
Walls: brick (Flemish bond)
Roof: slate
ca. 1883debating society (Muldoon Literary Society)
ca. 1883classrooms
ca. 1883library
ca. 1883auditorium
ca. 1883-present (2007)other (President's office and other offices)
1883-present (2007)administration
2003-present (2007)other (campus police)
2003-present (2007)admissions office

Significance: architecture, culture, education, history
Landmark designation:
National RegisterBiddle Memorial Hall, Johnson C. Smith University (1975)
Narrative: see below
References: see below

Biddle Memorial Hall was constructed in 1883. It was the first substantial building erected on the current campus and is the oldest surviving structure of the only black institution of higher education in Mecklenburg County. The Mecklenburg County Historic Landmarks Commission notes that Biddle Memorial Hall is "the only example of this genre of institutional architecture in Charlotte and Mecklenburg County." The Commission further notes that Biddle "also serves as a symbol of the rich heritage of Johnson C. Smith University, and of the local black community."

Biddle Memorial Hall originally consisted of an auditorium with a balcony, the President's and Registrar's offices, the Business Office, the library, classrooms, and restrooms. It currently serves as the general administration building and is undergoing major renovations.

Once renovation is completed in late 2003, Biddle Memorial Hall will house the Office of the University President, Offices for the Board of Trustees, Offices of the Registrar, Admissions, Financial Affairs, Academic Affairs, Administrative Affairs, Residencial Life, Student Affairs, and Campus Police.

Dominated by a massive but elegant clock tower, Biddle contains 40,045 square feet of floor space. Its ornamentation and overall massing are typical of institutional architecture during the Victorian era. Biddle Memorial Hall is highly significant in the history of Charlotte and Mecklenburg County. It stands as a magnificent monument to what was accomplished by a newly-liberated people in an atmosphere that has been described as hostile. This structure was built under trying circumstances and by people who had very meager financial resources. Over the years speakers of national renown, including a President of the United States, have spoken in this structure. Concerts, recitals, and art exhibits are some of the refined events which have been held in Biddle Memorial Hall.

I. Bibliographic sources:

Suttlemyre, Charles Greer, Jr. Biddle Memorial Hall, Johnson C. Smith University. National Register of Historic Places designation report. Washington, DC: U.S. Departmment of the Interior/National Park Service, 1975.

Parker, Inez Moore. The Biddle-Johnson C. Smith University Story. Charlotte, NC: Charlotte Publishing, 1975.

II. Location of other data:
Government Offices

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