March 18, 2014
The Chester County campaign to help restore Freed-Hardeman University’s Old Main has reached the half-way point. As of March 11, the total stood at $572,407. The local effort seeks to raise $1 million to help restore the county’s oldest public building.
Both Chester County Mayor Dwain Seaton and Henderson Mayor Bobby King have endorsed the project as well as county commissioners and the board of aldermen. Saying “It is our Achilles’ heel that we have let our older buildings go,” King added, “We need to preserve our history.”
Seaton agreed that he would like to see the older buildings preserved. “Chester County people always help when folks are in distress and they do things to benefit the community,” he said.
Local residents Larry and Kay Tignor, Regina East and Ben Flatt are spearheading the Chester County drive to raise the necessary funds for the restoration.
Old Main was listed on the National Registry of Historic Places in 2012. It has served the school for 106 years and is still in use today. FHU’s most identifiable landmark, Old Main’s bell tower serves as the university’s logo.
Important as the building is to Freed-Hardeman, it is also central to Henderson and its history. It and the Chester County courthouse define the downtown. Old Main is inextricably tied to the community. Constructed by local craftsmen using local resources, the building bears the stamp of the Henderson community. Bricks were kilned on Mill Street, and it is believed all timbers were processed on site, according to Erin Adams, former FHU archivist.
Hubert T. McGee, who was born in what is now Chester County, designed the building with its early 20th century Italian Renaissance Revival and Italianate-style elements. Reared and educated locally, McGee also drew the plans for dorms at Freed-Hardeman. He is, perhaps, best known as the architect of Clarence Saunders’ Pink Palace, located in Memphis.
Approximately one-half of the required funds has been raised. The total cost of the project is estimated to be $5.5 million. Opportunities to help with the project are available. Donors may underwrite the cost of renovating or restoring a room in honor or memory of a person of their choice. In addition, the seats in Chapel Hall will be restored, and individuals may underwrite the cost of these. Donors will be identified by a plaque. Tax deductible gifts may be made to the Old Main project by sending a check to Freed-Hardeman University, 158 East Main Street, Henderson TN 38340.