Main Building

Main Building
“Our College Home”

For over 75 years after its construction, Main Building was the only building of consequence on campus. Until the building of Fitzgerald Hall (a dormitory) in 1912, Main Building contained all the functions of the campus: administrative offices, classrooms, dorm rooms, kitchen, dining room, chapel, etc. Main Building was Greensboro College for the longest period of time.

Main Building has not only served as the heart of the campus, but also as the soul of the college. Over the past 150 plus years, Main Building has touched the lives of more than 8,000 alumni. Main Building has also faced the tests of time: mischievous young pupils, war, and fire.

The poem Our College Home by Miss Letha Brock (Class of 1913) remains representative of the depth of emotion and sentiment which so many alumni have for Greensboro College and Main Building.

1st Main Building
1st Main Building

1837 Forty acres of land was bought for the college.
1843 The cornerstone of Main Building was laid in September.
1845 The brick building was completed during the summer at a cost of $20,000. It was three stories high and had 36 rooms.
1846 On April 15, the doors opened to young female students for the first time.
1856 The West Wing was started in May of 1856 and completed in 1857.
1859 Construction of an East Wing was begun in May.
1861 Although not yet fully completed, the East Wing was usable. The entire building had the capacity to board 175 students.
1860s The women of Greensboro Female College contributed to the Civil War effort by collecting blankets, making food and wrapping bandages for soldiers.
1863 Around midnight on August 9, a fire broke out in the kitchen and Main Building burned as the fire spread.
1863-64 Plans were made for the building’s reconstruction, but the Civil War and its economic repercussions prevented the immediate rebuilding of Main. Also, the Federal Army procured a large amount of the building supplies, including lumber, which had been bought. Dr. Turner M. Jones, the college’s president from 1854-1890, managed to keep the administration functional and intact over the next ten years.
1869 A new charter for Greensboro Female College was secured.

1873 Rebuilding
Reconstruction of Main Building, circa 1871.

2nd Main Building
2nd Main Building

1870 Reconstruction of Main Building began.
1873 On August 27, almost 10 years to the day after the 1863 fire, second Main Building was reopened. This new building was not reopened without some sadness, for on March 10, Rev. William Barringer, who was supervising the construction, had fallen thirty feet from a gangway and was killed. The new building had the capacity to house 200 students and nine teachers in a total of 84 rooms.
1886 The number of faculty was increased to 15.
1904 At approximately 2 a.m. on February 18, Main Building burned for the second time. The cause of that fire remains unknown.

1904 Fire
An unknown artist’s depiction of the 1904 fire.

1904 Rebuilding
The reconstruction of Main Building in 1904.

3rd Main Building
3rd Main Building

1904 The rebuilding of Main began on July 9 and was completed by October 12 due to an outpouring of support. A large storied rotunda was added to the front of Main. The rotunda rested on a series of Doric columns, which created a circular porch on the bottom level. The rotunda’s porch quickly became a favorite place of many students.
1917 A fountain, a gift from the Class of 1917, was added to the front of Main Building.
1918 Third floor of Main Building was used as an infirmary during the influenza outbreak.
1941 On September 9, Main Building caught fire for the third time when lightning struck the cupola atop the rotunda at around 1:20 a.m. Henry B. McEntire, the head of the Business Office, and Dr. Luther Gobbel, the college’s president from 1935-1952, tried to save some documents from the fire. Mr. McEntire was killed instantly when a section of the roof collapsed on him.

1941 Fire
The rotunda was destroyed during the 1941 fire.

4th Main Building
4th Main Building
(A relatively early picture.)

1942 Main Building was once again rebuilt. Reconstruction was completed in time for the fall semester. Over the strenuous objections of many alumnae, the rotunda was replaced with a four-column portico due to a lack of money.
1990s Skylights, which can be seen in early pictures of the fourth Main Building, were removed when the old slate roof was replaced.
Present Since it was rebuilt in 1942, the configuration and structure of Main Building has remained largely unchanged. Main Building continues to house administrative and business offices, hosts a variety of special events, and is the location of the Brock Historical Museum of Greensboro College.

Our College Home

(From the “Collected works of Letha Brock”)

To thee, to thee, we bring our praise;
With thee are spent our happiest days.
No matter what, in after years
Shall come to pass, whether joy or fears,
Yet to thy name shall always cling
Blessed, holy memories.

Though in thy youth, misfortune’s blast
Twice wrecked thy wall with crackling flames,
‘Twas these alone which perished then,
And not thine old and honored name.

Beneath the trials which thou hast borne
Thy proud head may have bowed,
Yet now with courage strong, in turn,
It towers toward the clouds.

As one on whom the cares of life
Have left no mark of age,
Thou stand’st undaunted by the fiercest storm,
Which above thy head may rage.

And if in the years that are to come
Thy stately walls shall fall,
Thy influence still lives on and on
To guide us one and all.

May the joys which lie before thee
Be the best thou has ever borne;
May the gifts which thou hast given
Redound to thee, our college home.