The Eberly College of Arts and Sciences at West VirginiaUniversity celebrated the 125th anniversary of Woodburn Hall Friday, Feb. 23, with a reception in the buildings main hallway. The event also recognized major contributors and the achievements of students, faculty, staff and alumni through new bronze and brass plaques placed throughout the hallways of the buildings main floor.
Speaking at the event were WVU President David C. Hardesty Jr.; Eberly College Dean M. Duane Nellis; and political science and finance senior Peter Love, who was named last week to the USAToday All-USACollege Academic Team.
“Woodburn Hall has come to be recognized as the academic symbol of West VirginiaUniversity, the states flagship university, and the buildings distinctive clock tower is the symbol of the Eberly College of Arts and Sciences, WVU s flagship college,”Nellis said.
“During the past 25 years, the University and college have worked to renovate and refurbish this grand old cathedral to scholarship and teaching,”he said.”Finally this past summer, we were able �€with the help of the WVU Physical Plant �€to refurbish the hallways of the main floor and recapture the buildings grandeur. Now with years of major renovation, restoration and refurbishing behind us, it is appropriate to recognize Woodburns importance to the character of the EberlyCollege, WVU and Morgantown. It is a landmark for all of us connected to WVU and the community to enjoy and appreciate.”
The original building on the site of todays Woodburn Hall predated the establishment of WVU in 1867. The Woodburn Female Seminary was incorporated in 1858 and housed on the site in a home built by Thomas P. Ray. The name”Woodburn”means”streamlet in a shady glen.”
When the seminary closed in 1866, the property was acquired by the MonongaliaAcademy, a private mens school. The academys trustees then offered their property, which included a building on the corner of Spruce and Walnut streets, as an inducement for the new state of West Virginia to establish a land-grant educational institution in Morgantown.
The Woodburn Female Seminary building was first used by the new university as a boarding house for students and faculty members. Even President Alexander Martin lived there during the first two years of his term. Students also farmed the small field behind the building, on what is now the green space in Woodburn Circle. On Jan. 25, 1873, the building burned down after sparks from an ember in an open grate or from a lamp in a students room ignited a fire.
The state Legislature enacted a five-cent tax on every $100 of taxable property to finance construction of New Hall, later named University Hall, which is now the center portion of todays Woodburn Hall. The cornerstone for the new building was laid on June 18, 1874, and construction was completed in June 1876 at a cost of $41,500, more than $4,000 over the original contract price.
“The building was not occupied until 1878 because the balance of political power had shifted in the state from the Radical Republicans, who had favored President Martin, to the Bourbon Democrats,”wrote Barbara J. Howe, WVU associate professor of history, in her 1997 book Tales from the Tower: If Woodburn Hall Could Speak .”The legislature then decided to wait until Martin left the presidency to allocate more moneyThe interior walls, for instance, had not yet been finished, and no money had been appropriated for furniture.”
Preparatory Hall, later named for President Martin, was built in 1870 and is now the oldest original building on campus. A Seth Thomas clock was purchased for $500 in 1884 and attached to the curfew bell in Preparatory Hall. Science Hall, now called Chitwood Hall, was built in 1893, completing Woodburn Circle.
The north wing of Woodburn was completed in 1899, and the south wing was added in 1910. That same year, the Seth Thomas clock was moved from Preparatory Hall and placed in the newly completed East Tower of Woodburn Hall.
Woodburn Halls interior was extensively renovated in 1977-78, and its exterior was refurbished and restored in the early 1990s. Just last year, the hallways of the main floor were refurbished and commemorative plaques added to the walls.
Woodburn is home to the EberlyCollege, which was renamed in 1993 to recognize the generosity of the Eberly family.