Council of Independent Colleges Historic Campus Architecture Project

 

 
Hugh Ratchford Black House

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Institution Name: Wofford College
Original/Historic Place Name: Original Faculty Home; later an infirmary
Location on Campus: College Dr. (429 N. Church St., Spartanburg, SC 29303-3663)
Date(s) of Construction:
1854original construction Clayton, Ephraim
Designer: probably Ephraim Clayton, contractor for the campus
Type of Place: Individual building
Style: Greek revival (Glossary)
Significance: architecture, culture, history
Narrative: see below
References: see below
Materials:
Foundation:
Walls: red brick over wood frame
Roof:
 
Function:
1854-1953other (faculty residence)
1953-ca. 2002infirmary
 

Narrative:
This is one of four identical campus homes, which are fine examples of Southern middle-class townhouses of the 1850s. Notable features include the floors, mantles, stairs and other woodwork. Additions and conversion to administrative use occurred after World War II.

This house was first occupied by Professor David Duncan. The most noteworthy resident was Professor Joseph Augustus (Uncle "Gus") Gamewell, who taught Latin into his 90s and managed the Wofford Lyceum. In the early days of the Lyceum, hotel accommodations in Spartanburg were so poor that many of the visiting lecturers were entertained in the home of Professor and Mrs. Gamewell. Among these were George R. Vincent, Woodrow Wilson and Hamilton Wright Mabie.

Statesmen, politicians, explorers, scientists, authors, lawyers, poets, and gifted men and women of the stage all appeared at the Wofford Lyceum. "Leadership" was Lyman Abbott's subject. Sir Wilfred Grenfell presented his "Labrador Mission." Booker T. Washington read from his autobiography, "Up from Slavery." William Jennings Bryan, Woodrow Wilson and John Sharp Williams spoke on the political situations of their times. Mrs. Nellie Taylor Ross, secretary of the mint, who directed the placing of gold at Fort Knox, gave an amusing account of her experiences as the governor of Wyoming. Judge Ben Lindsay presented his hobby, "The Juvenile Court." Edwin A. Alderman chose "The Southern Boy and his Opportunities," as his subject. Dhan Ghopal Mukerji, East Indian poet and mystic, dark and handsome, clad in native dress and turban of snowy white, had a habit of drawing his audience to him in a preliminary moment of silence, while he studied his slender brown hands.

In 1943, the house was made into an infirmary when the campus was temporarily occupied by a US Army Air Corps Pre-Flight Detachment. Modernized with additional funds from the Black family, the house continued to serve as an infirmary until recent years, when Wofford's location near the Spartanburg Regional Medical Center made the infirmary function obsolete.
Current plans are to convert the Hugh R. Black "infirmary" back into a residence, or remodel it for additional space for student activities and offices.
 

References:

Brabham, William H. Wofford College Historic District. National Register of Historic Places designation report. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of the Interior/National Park Service, 1974.

Wallace, David Duncan. The History of Wofford College, 1854-1949. Nashville, TN: Vanderbilt University Press, 1951.

 

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Last update: November 2006