Council of Independent Colleges Historic Campus Architecture Project


Mercer Hall

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Institution Name: Bryan College
Original/Historic Place Name: Administration Building
Location on Campus: 721 Bryan Dr.
Date(s) of Construction:
1927-1930soriginal construction Manley & Young
1949addition; renovation Caton & Associates
2001renovation ARTECH
Designer: Manley & Young; Caton & Associates; ARTECH
Type of Place: Individual building
Style: Mission/Mission revival, Modern/post-WWII, Contemporary (Glossary)
Significance: education, history, religion
Narrative: see below
References: see below
Foundation: concrete
Walls: cement block, facing brick, and cast concrete decorative trim
Roof: modified bitumen
ca. 1930residence hall
ca. 1930dining hall (and kitchen)
ca. 1930chapel
ca. 1930student union (student center, maintenance shop, lounge, music practice rooms, darkroom, exercise room and student organizations)
ca. 1930library
1930-present (2006)other (storage)
1930-present (2006)other (exhibition space for science and historical exhibits)
1930-present (2006)student union (mailroom, print shop and duplication services)
1930-present (2006)academic department building (science laboratories, computer laboratories and associated services)
1930-present (2006)classrooms
1930-present (2006)faculty offices
1930-present (2006)administration

Begun four years before the institution first started classes, this building has been under construction or extensive renovation during the entire history of the college, and even now it is about one-sixth unfinished. It is the oldest building on campus, but extensive renovations since a multi-million-dollar fire in 2000 make it virtually the newest building. Groundbreaking took place on November 5, 1926. The ceremony was officiated by Governor Austin Peay, signer of the Tennessee anti-evolution law, which led to the Scopes Trial and subsequently to the founding of this college.

Actual construction began on May 14, 1927, with Congressman William D. Upshaw of Georgia officiating. The Great Depression swept away most of the pledges for this memorial to W. J. Bryan, with the result that the original design for the outer appearance of the building was greatly changed when progress on the building ceased for a few years. On the average, one floor per decade was added to this 440-foot, three-story structure. In the 1940s and 50s, some student labor was used to help with construction. When the facing brick was added in the 1950s, the original Gothic revival design was changed to that of a modern/post-WWII. After a fire in 2000 destroyed most of the third floor and water damaged the other two floors, the building was completely renovated and upgraded to include computerized classrooms. One section was left unfinished to allow for future institutional changes and needs.

For the first 25 years, the college was mainly a one-building institution, and even after other substantial buildings were added, the Administration Building continued to be the hub of organizational, educational, religious, and social activities since it housed a number of significant facilities. For students and staff, the Administration Building is the essence of Bryan College, the center of the majority of worthwhile and memorable activities and accomplishments, and the chief vehicle for fulfilling the part of the institutional purpose that speaks of assisting "in the personal growth and development of qualified students by providing an education based upon an integrated understanding of the Bible and the liberal arts." In 2005, the Administration building was renamed Mercer Hall, in honor of Dr. Theodore Chelton Mercer, the fourth president of Bryan College, 1956-1986.


Archives and Special Collections. Bryan College Library and Bryan College Facilities Management Office, Bryan College, Dayton, TN.

Bryan, William Jennings. The Commoner. New York: Abbey Press, 1902.

Cornelius, R. M., and Tom Davis, ed. Impact: the Scopes Trial, William Jennings Bryan, and Issues that Keep Revolving. Dayton, TN: Bryan College, 2000.

Olson, LaDonna. Legacy of Faith: the Story of Bryan College. Dayton, TN: Bryan College, 1995.

Triangle, [n.d.]. Bryan College, Dayton, TN.

Traylor, Jack W. "William Jennings Bryan College: A Brief History." In The World's Most Famous Court Trial: Tennessee Evolution Case. Dayton, TN: Bryan College, 1990.


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Last update: November 2006