Council of Independent Colleges Historic Campus Architecture Project


Annie Spencer Penn Alumnae House

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Institution Name: Salem College
Original/Historic Place Name: Single Sisters Wash House
Location on Campus: near northeast corner of Single Sisters House
Date(s) of Construction:
ca. 1813-1814original construction (wash house and woodshed)
ca. 1817-1824addition of second floor
1824addition of third floor
Designer: unknown
Type of Place: Individual building
Style: Regionalist/Vernacular (Glossary)
Significance: architecture, culture, education, history, religion
Narrative: see below
References: see below
Foundation: stuccoed stone
Walls: brick
Roof: clay tile
ca. 1817other (woodshed)
ca. 1817residence hall (sleeping hall and wash kitchen)
ca. 1817infirmary
ca. 2004-present (2006)alumni center

Built prior to 1817 and in continuous use at Salem College (previously Salem Academy and College), Alumnae House began as a wash house. It may be the only building on a college campus in America that depicts life for women in a boarding school environment in the early nineteenth century. Alumnae House is unique to North Carolina's architectural heritage and cultural legacy. Situated adjacent to Single Sisters' House (1785) and South Hall (1802) on Salem Square, these three College buildings are part of the Old Salem National Landmark District. Used today for the College Alumnae Office, the house also contains guestrooms, which until recently were guest quarters for campus visitors.

Alumnae House began as an all-purpose structure built in two main phases. The original portion, built in 1813 or 1814, was a wash house and woodshed. The building now standing is an 1817 addition, partially restored to its original appearance. The 1817 structure contained a wash-kitchen, ironing room, and woodshed. A second floor was added after 1817 for more sleeping rooms and to gain sick rooms; in 1824 a third upper story was added for dormitory space and storage of sidesaddles and trunks.

Today the house is, for the most part, as it was in 1824. The walls are the same, the roof tiles are from original Salem buildings, and the floors of the hall and living room are made of old bricks. The house is furnished throughout by gifts of alumnae and friends of Salem. On the stairwell is a restored pine corner cupboard from the Single Sisters' House (1785). Throughout the house are pieces of handwork done by Salem students in the early 1800s in original frames, many of which were made in the Single Brothers' House (1769). The upper floor dormitory contains original Salem beds and a number of side saddles, as well as the hand-hewn pegs made for the purpose of hanging side saddles, reminders of the mode of travel used by Salem students of long ago.


Fries, Adelaide. Historical Sketch of Salem Academy & College. Salem, NC: Crist and Keehln, Printers, 1907.

Hartley, Michael O., and Martha B. Boxley. Salem Survey 1997. Winston-Salem, NC: Old Salem, Inc., 1997.

Hartley, Michael O., and Martha B. Boxley. Survey Files for Salem National Register Landmark District Proposal. Winston-Salem, NC: Old Salem, Inc., 1997.

Old Salem Historic District [including Salem College]. National Register of Historic Places designation report. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of the Interior/ National Park Service, 1966.

Rauschenberg, Bradford L. Salem College Study. Winston-Salem, NC: Wachovia Historical Society, 1983.


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Last update: November 2006