LC in History: Dorm to Offices

Dr. Clifton W Potter ~ LC History Professor

Carnegie Hall was the second building on Lynchburg College that marked its centennial in 2009. Andrew Carnegie, the self-made, Scottish-born steel magnate built libraries all over America, and one dormitory.

While Westover Hall supplied the needs of Va. during the first years of its history, by 1907, it was obvious that the college was outgrowing its first building. The Board of Trustees decided that the college needed a classroom building with an auditorium that could accommodate the student body and the faculty, as well as a dormitory for the men.

The Administration Building, later named Hopwood Hall, was constructed with funds from the college’s regular constituents, but there was not enough money to build the dormitory too.

Dr. Josephus Hopwood then sought support from Carnegie, only to be rejected several times. He only built libraries, to which Hopwood replied that the college already had one. Finally, Carnegie gave in, and Hopwood got his “boys’ home.” It was named for Carnegie who probably would approve of its current use because faculty offices, like libraries, are always filled with books.

For almost 60 years, it was the main residence hall for men until it was replaced by Freer, Shackelford and, later, McWane Halls. It was converted into faculty offices in the late 1960s.

I shared an office on the second floor of the section which is closest to Shellenberger Field in 1967-68, the first after it was remodeled. We faced the circle, and it was a perfect vantage point from which to observe the life of the college.

I often wondered what tales the walls might tell if they could speak. The answer is plenty! Carnegie Hall, like Hopwood, was built to be earthquake proof, and in the case of the men’s dorm, that was a definite plus.

Carnegie Hall was built in three separate sections, each with its own entrance, and the only way of accessing all three sections was on the lower level. Edward Frye placed a dining hall in the basement so that the men could come to meals without having to go outside in inclement weather.

The separate dining facility was soon abandoned as impractical as well as expensive, and the men rejoined the women in the elegant dining room in Westover Hall. The basement of Carnegie, which already contained a shower room, was then subdivided into offices and small classrooms. Except for the shower room, it eventually became the location of the Business Office. Men could access the bathing facilities by the staircase in their section and a long narrow hallway that almost ran the length of the building.

There were benches on each of the porches which were removed and never replaced when Carnegie was converted to faculty offices. Sitting on the porch during the fall or spring was a very pleasant way to visit with friends, study or just sit and watch the passing campus parade. For years, I have tried to persuade the powers that be to replace them for use by the faculty. So far, I have not been successful, but I never desert a worthy cause!