Council of Independent Colleges Historic Campus Architecture Project

 

 
Eumenean Hall

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Institution Name: Davidson College
Original/Historic Place Name: Eumenean Hall
Location on Campus: 214 N. Main St.; SW corner of college campus
Date(s) of Construction:
1849original construction
Designer: unknown
Type of Place: Individual building
Style: Greek revival (Glossary)
Significance: architecture, culture, education
Narrative: see below
References: see below
Materials:
Foundation: stone
Walls: brick
Roof: slate
 
Function:
1849-present (2006)debating society (Eumanean Literary Society)
1849-present (2006)library (ibraries of the Eumenean Literary Society and of the Philanthropic Literary Society)
1849-present (2006)other (meeting hall for lectures and presentations of honored guests)
1849-present (2006)faculty offices
 

Narrative:
Constructed in 1849, the building was financed by subscriptions raised by student members of the society. It cost $2,500, according to handwritten records found during an early renovation. The architecture of this building and its sister building, the Philanthropic Literary Society Hall, is arguably the most elegant in this area of the Piedmont.

The societies served as the earliest society and intellectual centers for students outside the classrooms, with debates, orations, and discussions of current events during meetings.The Honor system, a stable of campus values at Davidson, had its origin in these groups. During commencement exercises, the students were led in the procession by representatives from the two societies, each wearing distinctive regalia, pink representing Eumenean and blue representing Philanthropic. Even today that tradition continues.

The Eumenean Literary Society was the one in which Thomas W. Wilson (later known as Woodrow Wilson, President of the United States) was a member (1873-1874). He served as secretary of this group, and the College Archives owns his notebook from his school days. He did not return to Davidson due to ill health.

The hall was renovated over fifty years ago, in the mid-1950s; however, it has had little work done to it since that time, except for a new roof. The second floor, which contains the meeting hall, is very elegant, with original dais furnishings.The first floor has been used for faculty offices and is not presented as being "of the period."

The Eumenean Literary Society Hall forms one side of the campus' original quadrangle, facing Philanhropic Literary Society Hall. The grounds between the two were sites of noted debates between North and South Carolina students, of particular note before and during the War Between the States.

The campus architecture is based on the University of Virginia, with Jeffersonian neo-classical design. The original chapel (now gone), early dorms (Oak and Elm Rows) and Eumenean and Philanthropic Halls make up the old quad, a mini-version of Monticello. The library, built in 1974, was designed based on "Bremo," the only flatroofed building Jefferson designed. Jefferson's influence on campus design was considerable from the outset and has had a lasting influence. Five apartment-dorms built in the last ten years were designed based on the style of Eumenean and Philanthropic Society Halls; and subsequent additions have followed the Jeffersonian neo-classical style, with quads and groupings to give buildings an appropriate relationship to others.
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References:

Beaty, Mary D. A History of Davidson College. Davidson, NC: Briarpatch Press, 1988.

Davidson, Chalmers Gaston. The Plantation World Around Davidson. Davidson, NC: Briarpatch Press, 1982.

Eumanean [sic] Hall [Davidson College]. Historic American Buildings Survey report and photographs. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of the Interior/National Park Service, n.d.

An Inventory of Older Buildings in Mecklenburg County and Charlotte. Charlotte, NC: Charlotte-Mecklenburg Historic Landmarks Commission, 1975.

Turner, Paul. "Some Thoughts on Campus Planning." Planning for Higher Education 16, no. 36 (1987-1988): 27-28.

Turner, Paul Venable. Campus: An American Planning Tradition. New York: Architectural History Foundation; Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1984.

Wells, John B., III. Eumenean Hall, Davidson College. National Register of Historic Places designation report. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of the Interior/National Park Service, 1972.

 

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Last update: November 2006