Alumni Buildings Faculty

Herman Baer: The Man Behind the Benificent Plaque

It’s one of the great traditions of the college: rubbing the “I” in the mis-spelled word “benificent” (it should have been spelled “beneficent”) for good luck before taking a test. The plaque was a gift of Dr. Herman Baer, but who was this mysterious donor, and what relationship did he have to the college?

Dr. Herman Baer
Dr. Herman Baer, class of 1858 and trustee, 1892-1901

Herman Baer was, according to Dr. D. D. Wallace, a tutor in modern languages and Hebrew and an assistant in the college’s preparatory department from 1853 to 1855. Of course, the college hadn’t opened in 1853, but the trustees, at their November 1853 meeting, elected the college’s first five faculty members as well as some other officials, like Baer. Wallace further explains that the preparatory department didn’t start taking students until January 1855, and the treasurer’s books only show that the college started paying him then. The preparatory department was designed to prepare younger students for admission to the college. The college faculty avoided teaching the preparatory students, except during the lean times of the Civil War, and with a few exceptions later in specific subjects, but the preparatory department was an important source of revenue and future students. Some 34 students enrolled in that department in 1855. Baer only worked at the college for a year, offering elective courses for college students in Hebrew, French, and German, but he left after December 1855. In 1858, Wallace notes, Baer applied to receive the A. B. degree from the college on the grounds that he had privately studied the entire college curriculum. For the only time in the college’s history, that request was granted.

Baer’s activities before coming to Wofford and for the thirty years after are absent from college records, but an article in the Southern Christian Advocate published after his death bring some additional information. Baer told his minister that he had left his father’s home in Germany before his 17th birthday and traveled to New York. He celebrated his 17th birthday at sea. In January 1847, after arriving in New York, he made his way to Charleston, where he soon found himself in the city’s Methodist circles. He noted attending a camp meeting out of curiosity, and afterwards, a Methodist minister introduced him to Rev. David Derrick, who was in charge of the German mission in Charleston. Rev. Derrick had no children, so he and his wife took Baer into their home. They introduced him to some of the Methodists who were involved with the Southern Christian Advocate, including one named Benjamin Jenkins, who Baer tutored in German, French, and Hebrew, helping Jenkins prepare to be the first Southern Methodist missionary to China. Jenkins in turn helped Baer with his English. In 1848, in his second year in Charleston, Baer converted from Judaism to Christianity, joining Charleston’s Trinity Church. Baer served as a private teacher for a few years, but his early association with Rev. William Wightman at the Advocate bore fruit in 1853, when no doubt thanks to Wightman’s invitation, Baer was invited to come work at Wofford.

After his time at Wofford, he served again as a private tutor, mostly in Marlboro County, and then in 1859, he entered the Medical College in Charleston. Medical education in that era usually involved working with a practicing physician for several years. In 1861 he graduated and worked for four years as a Confederate Army doctor. He wound up working in business in Charleston after the war ended, and it appears that he largely served as a wholesale pharmacist. It does not appear that he practiced medicine after the Civil War. One advertisement in the Advocate in 1888 touted one of his medicinal cures – Thompson’s Bromine-Arsenic spring water.

He remained active in Trinity Church, and three times – in 1878, 1886, and 1894, he was elected as a lay delegate to General Conference. In 1892, the Annual Conference elected him to serve as a Wofford trustee. He had already made some small financial gifts to the college in the 1880s, particularly when the college alumni were trying to bring more support to the college. In 1900, he decided that the college needed to do more to honor Benjamin Wofford, and he had a plaque commissioned to honor the founder. Baer wrote the text himself, but was quite vexed to discover on Commencement Day in 1900, when it was installed, that his last line “To Perpetuate this Beneficent Record” had an engraver’s error in it. Baer supposedly slammed his cane on the floor with great vigor and stalked away, but refused to have it re-cast as a warning to students about the dangers of sloppy work.

Commencement 1900 would be Baer’s last commencement, for the next January, he died in Charleston just before his 71st birthday. He left a small collection of books to the college as well as a legacy that lives on in his plaque.

Buildings Sports

Gyms of Days Past

The groundbreaking of the new Jerry Richardson Indoor Stadium gives us a chance to recall the construction of two earlier athletics facilities, the Andrews Field House and the current Campus Life Building.

Andrews Field House
Andrews Field House

The first of those two, Andrews Field House, opened in 1929. It was the gift of Spartanburg businessman Isaac Andrews, and it was designed to serve as a basketball, volleyball, and even handball court. It also was to serve as a space for instruction in all indoor sports, and it could seat large crowds for significant events at the college. Soon after it opened, it hosted some of the college’s 75th anniversary events. As was said at its opening, “there is no more adequate building anywhere, and it will contribute much to the physical training and athletic activities of Wofford students.”

Andrews Field House replaced an earlier gym, but the previous building was not large enough to hold athletic events. Andrews was expanded twice, once in the late 1940s for racquetball courts, and later in the 1960s for locker rooms. But, by the late 1970s, it was becoming inadequate for the college’s athletics needs.

In the late 1970s, the college moved to construct the Campus Life Building, and on January 22, 1981, the Benjamin Johnson Arena was dedicated. The women’s basketball team played the first game in the new arena prior to the dedication, and the men’s basketball team played its first game against the Citadel following the dedication. The new arena had a seating capacity of 2,832 when it opened.

Campus Life
Campus Life Building

The Campus Life Building, dedicated in November 1980, was a much-needed addition to the college’s facilities, bringing a number of different student life offices and spaces together in one building. The building has seen countless theatre productions, community events, and student lunches in the canteen, Zach’s, since it opened.


Laying the Cornerstone

When the men named by the Rev. Benjamin Wofford as his trustees gathered on April 16, 1851 for their first meeting at Spartanburg’s Central Methodist Church, they found a growing community excited by the prospect of having a college. Word of Wofford’s tremendous bequest “for the purpose of establishing and endowing a college” had spread quickly following his death the previous December 2. By April, residents in Spartanburg, Glenn Springs, and Woodruff were all making bids to become the home of the new college.

After the trustees met and voted to name the new institution “Wofford College,” they visited a few sites around the town and county. Quickly, they agreed to purchase forty acres of land on the northern border of the town of Spartanburg to found the college. The Carolina Spartan described the land as a “most lovely elevation, embracing lawn and woodland, about one half to three-fourths of a mile north of the Court-House…” The trustees planned to have a great celebration on the Fourth of July to lay the cornerstone.

Some 4,000 people gathered at the corner of Church and Main streets on the morning of July 4, 1851, according to the Carolina Spartan. Major G. W. H. Legg acted as marshal, organizing the procession and leading it on horseback. One of his assistants in the festivities was William Walker, the author of Southern Harmony, who was famous for his shaped note hymns. Participants came from all over South Carolina and the nearby North Carolina counties. The Sons of Temperance led the procession, followed by the Odd Fellows, and then the Masons, all wearing their regalia. The members of the Board of Trustees and Methodist clergymen followed the fraternal groups, with members of the community at large behind the clergy. Several bands participated in the festivities. The procession from the courthouse square to the College stretched to a half-mile in length. Even more participants rode in carriages alongside the marchers.

When they arrived on the campus, the Rev. William M. Wightman delivered an address of about fifty minutes. Wightman, who was the chairman of the Board of Trustees at the time, would later become the first president of the college. The address, which was reprinted in newspapers around the state, was in many ways the announcement of a set of principles that would guide the new college. Wightman saw the college’s primary role was to produce educated citizens of character and virtue who would serve their fellow men. “Education makes men polished and powerful, but Christian education alone, makes them good,” he announced. The college was proudly Methodist in origin and would seek to be known as a Methodist institution of learning throughout the nation. But, he reminded his audience, the Methodist Church’s principles were “abhorrent of sectarian bigotry.” As he spoke, Wightman was very much aware of the significance of the day when he said, “For posterity emphatically, we lay this cornerstone. Generations unborn are interested in the transactions of this hour.”

The cornerstone itself, “a fine specimen of granite” from a nearby quarry, was presented by Major H. J. Dean. The cornerstone contained a lead box, into which the participants placed a Bible, a copy of Benjamin Wofford’s will, a lock of his hair and of Maria Wofford’s hair, a copy of the Southern Christian Advocate and the Spartan, and a police report with some statistical information about Spartanburg. In addition, the Sons of Temperance, the Odd Fellows and the Masons placed materials about their organizations into the cornerstone, and the building committee placed a silver medal engraved with the name of the founder, the date, and the amount of the bequest. Members of the audience placed a few other items in the box, and it was sealed.

Almost a year passed before the building committee signed a contract to build the Main Building, and three years passed before the college opened its doors on August 1, 1854. Meanwhile, the cornerstone’s location was forgotten. The Spartan wrote that it was in the southeast corner of the building, though Masonic custom would have placed it in the northeast corner. College historian David Duncan Wallace speculated that the building might have been built such that the cornerstone was beneath an internal wall.

By the early 1950s, with the college’s centennial looming, officials began to search for the cornerstone in earnest. While he was reading an old issue of the Advocate in November 1953, freshman George Duffie discovered that the cornerstone was in the northeast corner of the building. On March 2, 1954, the lead box was removed from the cornerstone, but a leak in the box had caused most of the contents to be ruined. After a few months of display in the library, the contents were replaced in the cornerstone in a ceremony on Founder’s Day 1954. A plaque above the cornerstone will keep members of the community from forgetting where the cornerstone rests in 2054.

Alumni Buildings Current Affairs Students

Fraternity Houses

Those houses have been there, like, forever, right?

Forever is a long time, obviously, though on a college campus, 59 years might as well be forever. And that’s how long the current fraternity row has been standing on its current site.

In the spring of 1955, then Dean of Students Robert Brent proposed to the Board of Trustees the construction of seven fraternity lodges at some place on campus. Each house would have a chapter room, a living room, a kitchen, a bedroom for a fraternity member who was acting as the caretaker of the house, two bathrooms, and some closets. One site, on Cleveland Street near Snyder Field, was rejected because it was too far from the main part of the campus and also was not an especially attractive site. The other was along Memorial Drive down the hill from Main Building, though the college recognized that this site might eventually be needed for another academic building.

Floor PlansThe trustees approved the project, and in the spring of 1956, the houses were all built simultaneously. That way, no one fraternity would be able to occupy its house before the others. Originally only the chapter room in each house was to have pine paneling, but the college got a good deal on paneling and was able to use it in the living room and chapter room. Construction began in December 1956, with foundation work, and then as the weather improved, the pace of the work increased in April and May. The fraternities took possession of their houses on May 17, 1956.

The paper noted that houses for fraternities had been a sixty-year dream, as in fact, the college had not provided Greek houses before. After fraternities were reinstated in 1915, they mostly met wherever they could find space – including above stores on Spartanburg’s Morgan Square. But since May 1956, Fraternity Row has been the home to Wofford’s Greek organizations.


What and where was this?

So, what was this building, and where was it located?


Buildings Methodist

Cokesbury, the Methodist Town

This article appeared in the December issue of the SC United Methodist Advocate.

Perhaps you’ve heard of Cokesbury – it’s an especially Methodist name – but I’m not talking about the publishing house.  I’m talking about the village in Greenwood County.  That’s correct; we have our very own Cokesbury right here in South Carolina.

CokesburyCollI suppose you can be forgiven for having not heard of it.  After all, it’s not even an official town, but the government recognizes it as a census area, and as of 2000, the census counted some 279 people living there.  Though it might be small, Cokesbury has a long history, and most of it is related to South Carolina Methodism.

In the 1820s, in perhaps an early real estate maneuver, the citizens of the nearby Methodist community called Tabernacle decided they wanted to move their town to higher, more pleasant ground.  The Tabernacle Society had developed perhaps before 1788, making it a fairly early Methodist community.  The town already had a school for boys, but they wanted both their town and their school to grow.  They laid out a new village along a high ridge, with lots of some 20 to 25 acres, large enough for small farms, making it one of the state’s earliest planned communities.  At first they called their new town Mount Ariel, but in 1834, they changed the name to honor Bishops Thomas Coke and Francis Asbury.  In that same year, the Annual Conference decided it needed a preparatory-type school for boys, and it quickly decided to offer to purchase the Tabernacle Academy.  It was named the Dougherty Manual Labor School, in honor of an early clergyman, though it was commonly called the Cokesbury Conference School almost from the beginning.  Revs. William Wightman and William Capers, both future bishops, were on its first board of trustees.  The village became a center of Methodism and education, and soon, the Cokesbury Methodist Church was built

In addition to the school for boys, a Masonic Female College opened around 1854, and the village also had a school for children under 12.  The Female College built a three story, Greek Revival building, with a chapel on the second floor and recitation rooms on the first floor.  The Female College operated in the building for some twenty years, at which point the Annual Conference purchased it and made it the home of the Cokesbury Conference School.  The school was coeducational under Methodist operation from 1882 to 1918, at which point it became a public school.  It reverted to Methodist hands in the 1950s, and most of Cokesbury became a National Historic District in 1970, but more recently, it has been operated by the Cokesubry Historical and Recreational Commission.

The Commission on Archives and History once again seeks applications and nominations for the Herbert Hucks Awards, which will be presented at Annual Conference in 2015.  Local churches that have undertaken the work of preserving and interpreting Methodist history in their congregation.  The commission also gives an award to an individual that has, over a lifetime, made significant contributions to Methodist history beyond the local church, and to a publication that also makes a contribution to the understanding of Methodist history beyond the local church.  For more information about applying or nominating a church, individual, or publication, visit the Archives and History website.  Applications and nominations are due Feb. 6, 2015.

Buildings Coeducation Faculty

Libraries, librarians, and coeducation

Last week, with a small delegation from campus, I visited two very good liberal arts college libraries in Minnesota to see how they are collaborating and also to see their facilities, how they operate, and just to gather some information for future use here in our library. And then this week, I got a request for information about a former librarian here. And finally, it’s Women’s History Month, so I’d just recently put out a display on the first decade of coeducation and posted something here on the blog about it. Three fairly different subjects.

Then, in looking for information on the former librarian, I come across a clipping that definitely speaks to the culture of the campus in the 1960s. It sort of ties all of these subjects – library planning, librarians, and coeducation – all together in a funny bundle.

In part, it reads, “Anderson has great plans for the future library on campus. He hopes to promote a feeling of ease in the new library. Smoking will be permitted throughout the entire library and the acoustics are such that friendly “bull” sessions will disturb no one. People and books will be mixed throughout the library. Group study will be accepted with the many facilities designed for this purpose.” Smoking? Indeed, lots of people smoked all around campus in the 1960s and 1970s and into the 1980s, including in the library, in classrooms, in offices, and even in labs.

Another line speaks to different attitudes toward women. “Our librarian speaks optimistically of getting everyone involved in the library. One of these ways will be “moving day” where the entire campus can roll up its sleeves and pitch in. Anderson even mentioned the idea of having a combo play that day, with Converse girls serving “punch.” In 1969, Wofford’s student body was all male, but the idea of the “girls” serving refreshments does raise eyebrows.

Still, I love the serendipity of finding several things that I’m working on at the same time referenced in one little clipping.


The 125th anniversary of… Hugh S. Black Hall.

The building that now hosts the Admission and Financial Aid offices is celebrating its 125th birthday this year.

Alumni Hall shortly after opening

In 1888, at the annual meeting of the alumni association, the alumni voted to create an “alumni fund” to help supplement the college’s endowment.  They quickly raised $5,000.  However, a few weeks later, they learned that the Board of Trustees was planning to build three houses on the campus, at $1,500 each, to house students.  At that point, the college had no dormitory, and some 33 students were actually living in Main Building.  The alumni association called a special meeting at which a motion was approved requesting the trustees to allow the alumni to build a suitable building.  They revoked their plan to enhance the endowment, devoting the funds already raised and additional money to their building plans.  The trustees accepted their offer, and quickly the alumni association appointed committees, raised funds, and began construction of the new Alumni Hall on the Church Street end of the campus.

A ceremony to lay the cornerstone took place on Founder’s Day, Oct. 19, 1888, and in an address to commemorate the day, John B. Cleveland presented a thoughtful biographical statement about Ben Wofford.  Construction continued, and by the end of the school year, the building was complete.  As the Journal wrote in June 1889, “Today there stands, in the center of that portion of the campus fronting on Church Street, a noble and enduring symbol of the love and willingness of “the boys” for the old battle-ground on which they had fought many a hard fight with Homer and Horace.”

The building, constructed of brick, was four stories high and covered with slate, and contained forty rooms and a large dining hall.  It had broad stairways (which would be news to anyone working in that building today!)  An external kitchen was connected to the building.  It was fitted with all the modern conveniences of gas and water, and steam heat would be added before the next winter.  Completed, the building cost about $10,000.

Archer Hall and Snyder Hall – two of the Fitting School buildings

By 1895, the Wofford Fitting School, a preparatory school that the college had established to prepare students for the freshman class, had moved into Alumni Hall.  And then, since most college have some story involving fire, the night of January 17-18, 1901 saw Alumni Hall severely damaged by a fire.  No student was injured, and most of them were able to get their things out of the building, though some faculty members saw their libraries damaged. The college only had about $5,000 in insurance on the building, so funds had to be raised to repair it as well as build a new Fitting School building next door, which became Snyder Hall.  The college could only afford to rebuild it to two stories, which it remains today.

With the closing of the Fitting School in 1924, the college began using Alumni Hall, renamed Archer Hall after the principal alumni donor, as a residence.  It was used fairly sporadically over the next thirty years, largely as a residence for students, but also as a meeting place for social fraternities.  It looked terrible, and no doubt some college officials were thinking about demolishing it when the Black family agreed to support its restoration.  The building was actually in better shape than it appeared, with solid beams and trusses.  It was renamed the Hugh S. Black Building in recognition of that family’s significant contributions to the college.

A more recent view of the Hugh S. Black Building

For the remainder of its life, it has been used for administrative offices, most recently as the home of Admission and Financial Aid.  Another renovation and refurbishment in the late 1980s replaced the air conditioning and heating, repaired the roof, and otherwise updated the walls, moldings, and flooring to match the newly-constructed Papadopoulos Building.  It’s unlikely that the large number of prospective students who come through the Hugh S. Black Building each day realize that they’re visiting a structure that’s over 100 years old and that has had so many uses throughout the life of the college.


The 125th anniversary of…?

2013 marks the 125th anniversary of the construction of one of the buildings on the Wofford campus.  It’s a building that has, not surprisingly, had many uses over the century and a quarter that it’s stood on the campus.  It’s been a residence hall as well as an office building.  Which building, which was built in 1888 following a challenge by the newly-reorganized Alumni Association, turned 125 this fall?

Check back later this week for the answer.

Buildings Students

Shipp Hall at 50

About this time last year, I wrote a post about the 50th anniversary of DuPre Residence Hall.  DuPre and its close relative, Shipp Residence Hall, were both built as part of a campus expansion plan developed in the late 1950s.  This plan included the construction of Milliken Science Hall, the renovation of Main Building, the opening of the Black Music-Art Building, and two new residence halls.

A. M. Shipp Hall, opened in September 1963, represented the culmination of this plan.  Built to house 168 students, it was slightly larger than its sibling across the lawn.  It included a nice lounge area that has been a popular meeting place, an apartment for a house mother, and two interior courtyards.  As in DuPre, students were housed in rooms with individual sleeping and studying rooms, which students came to call “cubes.”

The Board of Trustees decided to follow a tradition just before the dorm opened and name it in honor of a former president of the college, in this case, the college’s second president, Albert Micajah Shipp.  President Shipp served from 1859 to 1875.  When the residence hall was formally opened in October 1963, several of his grandchildren were in attendance.

Shipp is special to me personally since I lived there for three years.  In 1991, with the opening of the dorm that is now known as Carlisle Hall (the New Dorm for those of us 1990s alums), most of the women in the senior and junior classes decamped from Shipp.  That made Shipp available for junior and senior men, and in my case, the occasional sophomore.  I never lived anywhere else.  And, though it may be a stereotype that women take better care of their residence halls than men, in this case, it was probably accurate.  Having been the home of women students for years, Shipp was in really good shape.  I did notice that after three years, it was looking a little less so.

Along with DuPre, Shipp was thoroughly renovated a few summers ago, and continues to serve another generation of students.

Photos – a Shipp postcard, construction photos, the dedication program.