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Restoration for Old Main

Old Main restoration assessment is completed and now funds are needed to complete the project.

Centric Architecture, Nashville, has completed an initial restoration assessment for Old Main and fundraising is currently underway to pay for the project, according to David Newberry, assistant vice president for university advancement. Almost $1 million in cash and pledges has been raised, but much more will be needed to complete the project.

The assessment report details repairs needed to preserve the building, completed in 1908, and bring it to current code requirements. Repairs include masonry cleaning and tuck pointing, replacing windows, rebuilding of cupola, installing a new rear entry structure and hipped roof over the addition, and restoring decorative architectural elements.

To meet current code requirements, new mechanical, plumbing and electrical systems, new sprinkler and fire alarm systems, new elevator, and new communication and data systems are needed. In addition, the project would require new rated doors and frames, floor repairs, and new restrooms.

The “architectural vocabulary” of Old Main “should be used to guide the proposed renovation so that the new work blends with the character of the original,” the report says. Any new construction would include wood baseboards, wainscoting, door and window frame trim and bead board ceilings. In particular, the university wants to restore the “important original spaces,” including hallways, lobbies, Chapel Hall and stairways. Secondary spaces such as offices and classrooms would receive complimentary design features but might have dropped ceilings to accommodate new building systems.

The cornerstone of Old Main was laid in November 1907, to house the National Teacher’s Normal and Business College. The building was completed in September 1908, in time for the fall term at a cost of $35,000.

Hubert T. McGee was the architect for the building. A native of Jacks Creek and an alumnus of one of FHU’s predecessor institutions, he also drew plans for the Chester County Courthouse, Hardeman House, Hall-Roland Hall, and most notably, Clarence Saunders’ Pink Palace in Memphis.

Old Main reflects early 20th century Italian Renaissance Revival and Italianate-style elements. It features a centered, two-story portico with brick arches and Ionic columns, buff-colored brick, limestone keystones, brick quoins, gabled dormers, and domed cupola with bell. The formal architectural design was executed with local craftsmen, local labor and local resources. “The building bears the stamp of the community in which it resides,” Erin Adams, former FHU archivist, said. Bricks were kilned on Mill Street and it is believed all timbers were processed on site.

Old Main was added to the National Register of Historic Places March 12, 2012. Details of a celebration heralding this event and kicking off the fundraising campaign will be announced at a later date.

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Linda Plyler Guthrie   7/20/2013 1:41:52 PM
Happy memories of chapel in Old Main building during the summer of 1976! The singing was outstanding in the building, even with the windows open for that breeze we hoped would cool us off. My future husband and I would look at the pictures on the walls of days gone by and feel a connection to those special people who'd gone before. Keep the charm and character intact, please, as you update the facility.
Doug James '54   12/7/2012 2:08:04 PM
Is the cupola/bell tower lighted? if not, and if I can afford it, I may be interested in having it lighted.
Ashley Samuel '10   12/12/2012 10:11:34 AM
Both my Grandfather (Kenneth Samuel) and Grandmother (Carolyn Triplett Samuel) managed to make it in the picture at the bottom :) I absolutely love this picture and it's so special, especially now that my Grandpa is gone. My Grandpa went as long as he could to FHC whereas my Grandma only went 1 quarter. So thankful to whomever took this photo so many years ago!
Dr. John Poore   12/6/2012 11:01:54 AM
Be sure & tell the repairmen to remove the toilet paper from around the windows in the upstairs classroom that I used. However, it did help to keep the temperature above 40 degrees in the winter.

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