September 2000

A piece of history
University landmark could be added to National Register of Historic Places

A Furman landmark and the only remaining structural remnant of the old campus in downtown Greenville could be included on the National Register of Historic Places.

This summer, the university submitted an application to the South Carolina Department of Archives and History asking that Old College be included on the highly selective list. If approved by the department's board of directors, the agency will forward the application, along with a recommendation for inclusion, to the Department of Interior.

Junior Meredith Crowell, a history major from Tallahassee, Fla., researched the history of Old College and wrote the nomination under the direction of Judy Bainbridge, director of Educational Services and Greenville historian.

Among the oldest buildings in the Upstate, Old College was the first university building erected in Greenville when Furman relocated its campus from Winnsboro to a site above the Reedy River in 1851. James C. Furman and Charles H. Judson lectured in the two-classroom building while the main building (later Richard Furman Hall) was under construction.

In 1910 Quaternion, the Furman men's honor society which had been holding its meetings in Old College, petitioned the Board of Trustees to save the building, which was slated for destruction. The petition was granted, as long as Quaternion agreed to maintain the building and the grounds surrounding it. Furman moved Old College 100 yards east to 311 University Ridge in 1921 to make room for a new dormitory, Geer Hall, where it remained until the late 1950s.

When Furman decided to relocate its campus, Old College again faced an uncertain future. But the efforts of Quaternion saved the building once more, and in 1958 it was moved to the north side of Furman lake at a cost of $2,687.

In 1964, the building was moved a short distance to its current location near the Bell Tower. Today, the 500-square-foot structure remains largely unused. But each year, Quaternions gather there to induct new members and sign the century-old Quaternion register. The carillon in the Bell Tower is occasionally played from a keyboard located in the building.

Brad Sauls, a federal grants coordinator for the S.C. Department of Archives and History, says the Old College application will be reviewed on November 17. The review board consists of historians, architects, planners and archeologists.

The application, if approved at the state level, would then be submitted to the U.S. Department of Interior. Sauls says the Department of Interior honors the recommendation of the state agencies "about 99 percent of the time."

Site integrity is a primary factor in determining historical significance, so the fact that Old College has been moved four times weakens its petition, says Sauls, a 1994 Furman graduate.

"But there is still a strong case to include Old College on the list," he says. "It's the last physical tie to the old downtown Furman campus." There are about 1,200 South Carolina listings on the National Register of Historic Places.

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Inside Furman is published monthly during the school year by the Furman University Department of Marketing and Public Relations. For story ideas, e-mail John Roberts, editor.