Old Main Virtual Museum Page
   After twenty-years Marshall College had out grown the three inter-connected buildings constructed between 1839 and 1870. In the spring of 1895 the state legislature responded by passing two separate appropriations that provided $25,000 for a new building, as well as an additional $1,500 for its furnishings. Architects Frank E. Davis and Henry R. Davis of Baltimore, Maryland, designed the new building. In September 1895 McCoy and Sons, the same contractor that had built the 1870 building, bid $20,479 and won the contract to build the new one. After fourteen months of construction work, the Board of Regents accepted the new building on November 23, 1896. The building opened just in time for the 1896-97 Winter Term, which began on December 3rd. Once finished it was called "College Building" because it was used exclusively for academic functions.

   The 1896 building was constructed about seventy-five feet west of the existing building, creating an interval separating the two structures. It was laid out, not parallel to the existing building, but instead parallel to 17th Street on the west. This off-set it some three feet from the other building.
   The new building, built of brick, stood three-stories high, approximately eighty-eight feet by fifty-five in dimension. However, its most singular feature was a large tower. At its base was a covered veranda encircling it on three sides. The tower rose much higher then the building itself, having an open air observation platform on its top level. The view from this deck was spectacular.
   The 1896-1897 Catalogue described the new building as "a model of convenience in school architecture within."

   No floor plans showing the interior of the 1896 building have survived. However, using later plans of the building as well as a few interior photographs in the Marshall College Cataloges of the later 1890's, it is possible to reconstruct the probable layout of its three floors:
    BASEMENT: The massive walls were constructed of limestone blocks, some 24 inches thick. The basement housed a furnace room and its adjacent coal room, and it had both interior and exterior entrances.
    FIRST FLOOR: The entrance to the building was through the bell tower's anteroom, which opened into a hallway that ran the width of the building to a staircase at its eastern end. This floor contained the Principal's Office and the adjacent Principal's Recitation Room. Across the hall from this room was a large study hall.
    SECOND FLOOR: This floor housed the college's Library of about 1,000 volumes, neatly arranged in shelves along one wall of the room. The building contained a number of class rooms, which were called "Recitation Rooms" at that time. The Recitation Room in the southwestern corner was shown in the 1896-1897 Catalog. The 1897-98 Catalog called it the Natural Science Recitation Room.
    THIRD FLOOR: This floor contained one large room, which served as a meeting hall. During the construction of the western 1907 Building, which included a large auditorium, this room was apparently divided into two rooms for the meetings and activities of two student groups. The north one was called the Erosophian Literary Society Hall and the one on the south was called the Virginian Literary Society Hall.

   When the 1870 and 1896 buildings were joined in 1899, the easternmost section the 1896 building was removed to make room for the new building. The large bell tower was torn down when the westernmost section of Old Main was built in 1906-07. The surviving section of the 1896 building is nestled in the present Old Main.

Page last modified 2 September 2004. | Maintained by the Lisle Brown, Curator, Special Collection
© 2003, Special Collections, Marshall University