Thursday, January 24, 2013

Iconic Smith Hall

This immediate past Christmas season brought the release of a "Very Merry Video" which was produced by LaGrange College's Marketing and Communications department. This lovely, brief video features Sarah Gordon, a junior art and design major, as she paints a watercolor of the main facade of Smith Hall.  A lilting vocal accompaniment is provided by sophomore, Elissa Morman.  The vignette is irresistible.  The image of Smith as it emerges on Sarah Gordon's easel resonates with the viewer.  “When you think of LaGrange College, you think of Smith Hall,” Sarah says in her interview.  
                Known for decades as "College Home" Smith Hall is the oldest building "on the Hill."  In 1860 the original College Home burned only to be replaced the same year by the current building – a brick structure set in the footprints of the original wooden boarding house.  The architecture evokes the time and place which mark the beginnings of LaGrange College in 1831.  Four stately Doric columns, affectionately named "Matthew," "Mark," "Luke" and "John," frame the main entrance, referencing the strong ties of faith which characterized the College even before ownership was acquired by the Georgia Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church, South in 1856.  The charm of the porch, covered for a number of years by wisteria vines, adds its own invitation.  For generations of students and faculty “College Home”/ Smith Hall has provided living quarters and academic spaces. 
Documents, photographs and artifacts in Suber Archives and Special Collections give testimony to our enduring interest in and affection for Smith's iconic presence on the LaGrange College campus.

Photograph of College Home from the
1890-1891 LaGrange Female
College Catalog. 

Photograph of College Home from the
1898-1899 LaGrange Female College
catalog. Note the addition
of the porch. 

This c. 1891 photograph of President Rufus Wright Smith and his family, given to Suber Archives by Patricia Hill Schmit, great-granddaughter of Rufus Wright Smith, pictures them at the main entrance of “College Home.”  Seated on the right is President Smith.  Seated on the left is his wife, Oreon Mann Smith.  At the time this photograph was made most of the adult family members shown served as LFC instructors and administrators.

In the spring of 1911, College Home was formally named the Oreon Mann Smith Memorial Building in memory of Mrs. Rufus Wright Smith (1829-1907).   Mrs. Smith studied three years at Wesleyan Female Institute in Cincinnati, Ohio, leaving before graduation to begin teaching.  In 1856 she was serving as headmistress of an academy in Oxford, Georgia when she married Rufus Wright Smith, thus uniting their academic careers.    During her tenure at LaGrange Female College Mrs. Smith taught a variety of subjects including:  Physiology, Astronomy, Greek, Latin, French, English, Geology, Botany, Elocution, and Music.  She also served as Lady Principal of the Primary
Department and Matron of the Boarding House.   A published novelist, she wrote articles for current magazines as well.  The Smiths had eight children – six sons and two daughters.   The photograph which is shown at the right appeared with the memorial to Mrs. Smith printed in the Catalogue of the Sixty-Third Annual Session of LaGrange College (Female), 1907-1908.

The October 8, 1931 edition of the” LaGrange Daily News” which celebrated the centennial of LaGrange College, noted that Mrs. Oreon Mann Smith was “as much a power in the building of LaGrange College as was her husband. “ 

The Oreon Mann Memorial Building quickly became known as the Smith Building and later Smith Hall.  The first catalog (1938-1939) published during the administration of President  Hubert Quillian features another first – a photograph on the cover.  Immediately inside is a trifold panoramic view of the Quadrangle. 

This 1947 photograph provides another look at Matthew, Mark, Luke and John in full academic dress – i.e. ivy covered.

Since that 1938-1939 issue Smith Hall has graced the cover of the catalog nine more times.   The 1988-1989 cover offered an image which was used on a number of College publications to commemorate the massive renovation of Smith Hall includingthe program for the October  22, 1989 rededication.  

The brass plate used to produce these images is also numbered in the collection of LaGrange College artifacts found in Suber Archives. 

Other artifacts celebrating Smith Hall include:

Wooden Model, 1996

Wedgewood Plate

Glass Ornament, 2004

The memorial eulogizing Oreon Mann Smith which was printed in the Catalogue of the Sixty-Third Annual Session of LaGrange College (Female), 1907-1908, declared:  “She will live in the hearts and minds of the thousands she has taught . . . “  Surely, Smith Hall lives in the hearts and minds of the thousands she has sheltered.
Visit the Archives to discover for yourself the collection of rich resources which preserve the history of LaGrange College.  Generous and often unexpected donations insure that the collection continues to expand.  Displays on the main floor of Lewis Library and just outside Suber Archives on the ground floor of the Library provide a sampling of our holdings.  Let us know if we can be of assistance. 

Suber Archives and Special Collections

Frank and Laura Lewis Library
LaGrange College
LaGrange, Georgia

Monday – Thursday, 8:30am until 5:00pm
Friday, 8:30am until 12:30pm
Patricia Barrett,
Jacqueline Hornsby,

**This post authored by Jacque Hornsby.

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