LC in History: An Honor to Hopwood

Dr. Clifton W. Potter Jr., LC History Professor~

Until last year, Lynchburg College was the only senior institution of higher learning in our area that did not have a building on either the Virginia Landmarks Register or the National Register of Historic Places on its main campus. On Saturday morning at 11:15 we shall gather on the porch of Hopwood Hall to unveil and dedicate the bronze plaque that corrects that omission. Hopwood Hall has received both honors.

This year all of my sections of history are in Hopwood Hall. During my college years, all of my classes were in Hopwood except for biology, math and religion.  The first class I taught as a faculty member was in room 13, so every day feels like homecoming! Since the passing of Westover Hall in 1970, Hopwood has become my favorite building on campus. From 1909 until 1953 it was known as the Administration Building. As part of the college’s 50th anniversary celebration, the name was changed to honor our founders, Josephus and Sarah LaRue Hopwood.

The funds for the construction of Hopwood Hall were provided by the Christian Church, Disciples of Christ, local donors and long-term bonds.  It cost $30,000 to construct, or $650,000 in 2018 dollars—still a bargain for a solid brick building that was designed to be earthquake proof! The architect was Edward Graham Frye of the Lynchburg firm Chesterman and Frye. He used the Jones Library which he had designed several years earlier as his inspiration for the administration/classroom structure.  The buildings are approximately the same size, although the space was managed with more efficiency in Hopwood Hall than in the library. In short, Frye corrected a number of “mistakes” made in the earlier structure.

In his letter to the college’s constituents, Dr. Hopwood described the new building as having “….fifteen recitation rooms, good as the best, with genuine slate blackboards; four offices or small rooms; an elegant library room; a handsome chapel; splendid art room with a skylight…” LC is the second oldest college in Virginia founded as a co-educational institution, and the construction of Hopwood Hall was an important step in the realization of the founders’ concept of that educational model.  Within its walls, men and women engaged in a variety of academic activities from painting to physics, from the study of literature to the mastering of foreign languages.

The list of academics, actors, musicians, poets, politicians, reformers, theologians and others who have graced its stage and classrooms is seemingly endless. They included the brightest and the best that the last 12 decades have had to offer.  Thus, from the day its doors opened, Hopwood Hall has provided a cultural venue for the campus and the wider community. With the creation of a department of dramatic arts after World War II, Hopwood Auditorium became the stage for all of the college plays and musical performances until the completion of the Dillard Theatre and the Sydnor Performance Hall.  

In the last century, Hopwood Hall has undergone several renovations; the most extensive one was completed several years ago.  The latest improvements have been the remodeling of the auditorium, the addition of an elevator which makes the building totally accessible to everyone, and a new copper dome. We lost a classroom with the addition of the elevator, but we gained a real asset.

How does Hopwood Hall remain so “young?”  It is simple. A program of preventive maintenance keeps our grand lady in first-class shape.

The application to award a similar designation for Carnegie Hall is almost complete.