125 Years of Student Housing at State
Posted: September 4, 2012
Photo: One, Two, Three and Four residence halls
As NC State celebrates 125 years of history, an important aspect of the institution- student housing - has seen tremendous changes through the years. This article begins a series on the history of student housing from 1889 through present day in an effort to chronicle its growth and celebrate its noted accomplishments.
He was not today’s typical freshman when he moved onto campus. He was 22 years old and did not have a car. He held one suitcase in his left hand and a pillowcase with his linens in his right. It was October 3, 1889, and he arrived by horse and carriage at Holladay Hall - the only available housing for students on campus at North Carolina College of Agriculture and Mechanic Arts.
By some accounts, Holladay Hall was unfinished and its floors covered in wood shavings, the plaster on the walls barely dry. According to records, the rooms were lighted with kerosene lamps and heated with small, cast-iron wooden stoves until the power plant was built in 1895.
Students obtained water from a nearby well. Until the construction of Watauga Hall was complete, students used an outhouse located behind Main Building (another name for Holladay Hall). After two young women attending a summer teacher’s institute died of typhoid, the resultant public outcry forced authorities to obtain funds for showers and toilets. The facilities were to be placed in the basement of Watauga, as well as water spigots in the other buildings. The outhouse remained until 1899 when it was burned by students celebrating a tie game with the University of North Carolina football team.
Constant overcrowding caused some students to live off campus in faculty-approved housing, but students under the age of twenty-one were required to live on campus. Until 1896, the boys slept on corn husk mattresses with no springs. The dormitories housed fraternities, as well, so nearly all students shared the common experiences of “dorm life.”
During this era, the costs associated with housing were $10 for rent for the year with board costs at $8 per month.
According to a brief history of student conduct at NC State University, an early description of life in Holladay Hall explains that each room of men had a “Room Captain” whose responsibility was maintaining order within the room. Room Captains submitted weekly reports to faculty regarding the activities within the room. By 1893, the role of Room Captains had diminished as weekly room reports began to fade. With more dormitories on campus, the number of students living in each room was reduced, making the need for Room Captains obsolete.
Between 1892 and 1894, four small brick dormitories were built to provide additional housing for students. The buildings were named First, Second, Third, and Fourth in the order of their completion. These dorms were built in a “house-like” style and the First dormitory contained the College’s first bookstore. They were located south of Holladay Hall and stood where present day Brooks Hall and Gold and Welch Residence Halls stand today.
By 1896, Watauga Hall housed the dining facilities on the first floor and 26 dormitory rooms on the two upper floors. However, on Thanksgiving weekend in 1901, Watauga Hall burned. It was rebuilt in 1903.
Originally built in 1909, the paradoxically named 1911 Building was one of the largest dormitories in the South. When freshmen entered NC State in 1907, it was a popular practice throughout American campuses for upperclassmen to harass new students through rough discipline and humiliating initiations. Tired of the stunts, the Class of 1911 challenged all of the sophomores "to align themselves on opposite sides of Red Diamond [Pullen Park], and at a signal, lunge at each other with weapons limited to bare fists.” The Class of 1911, which effectively banned the practice of hazing new freshmen, impressed faculty members to such a degree that the new dormitory was named in its honor.
In 1913, because the number of students coming to State (then A & M) was increasing faster than available student housing, ten temporary wooden buildings, with six rooms each, were constructed. They were known as "the Shacks," and remained in use for several years until 1917.
In the next issue of the Wolf’s Den, we’ll continue the trek through the history of housing at NC State. Stay tuned!
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