For more than a century, the buildings on the WVU campus have provided a place to learn, study, meet with friends. Thousands of people may not realize that the couch or chair theyre relaxing on is a piece of decorative history.
Provost Gerald Lang was aware of this and thought it would be valuable to catalog WVU s historical furniture. This resulted in a journey through history and tradition for student Darryl DeGripp.
To complete his masters degree in public history and internship for the cultural resource management program graduate certificate, DeGripp located, researched and created a catalog on 65 pieces of historical furniture placed in various buildings on the WVU campus.
Along the way he learned some interesting facts about the history of each piece and found many other historical artifacts, including glassware, lighting fixtures, office equipment and silver.
While researching the historical furniture at WVU , it has become clear to me that the University owns some fantastic pieces of furniture rich in both history and antiquity,DeGripp said.
The quality and craftsmanship of these long-ago constructed pieces is evident as most of them are still in use today. A mahogany sofa dating to 1830 is on the second floor of Elizabeth Moore Hall. It is used daily by students, as are the colonial revival period study tables and chairs that can be found in the Milano and Robinson reading rooms at the Wise Library.
Sometimes an item becomes tradition. For more than 60 years, a modernist-style secretarys desk has passed down from dean to dean. The desk was first used by the secretary to President Irvin Stewart (1946-1959), then Deans Joseph Gluck (1948-1980), Gordon Thorn (1981-1997), Herman Moses (1997-2003) and currently David Stewart. The desk has made its home in Stewart, Martin and E. Moore halls.
E. Moore Hall is home to many pieces of historical furniture. Two colonial, revival William and Mary, slat-back armchairs that are original to this building sit just inside the entrance. Walk farther into the room and you will see four Windsor, loop-back armchairs placed around a William and Mary gate leg drop leaf table with a rectangular top. The table and chairs were originally used in the social room of E. Moore Hall. An identical table and chair set was used in the living room on the third floor and is now located in the reception room of legal services in the basement.
Two chairs located by DeGripp are older than the institution that houses them. These Windsor/Sheraton-style armchairs with the initials C.L.S. in gold paint on the crest-rail were used by the Columbian Literacy Society at the Monongalia Academy. The Monongalia Academy and the Woodburn Female Seminary were donated to the state in 1866 to form the Agricultural College of West Virginia, the name of the school until it became WVU in 1868. Other than their leather seats being replaced, the chairs are in their original condition and sit in an office in Stewart Hall.
Sometimes trying to preserve history requires patience.
In 1952, Dr. Roy Bird Cook, then secretary of the West Virginia State Board of Pharmacy, and J. Lester Hayman, then dean of the School of Pharmacy, successfully submitted a proposal for a Museum Drug Store to be built within the new WVU Medical Center. Although appropriate items were collected for the museum, it wasnt until November 1961 that Hayman learned about a private donation to the school for solid chestnut drug store fixtures that were more than 100 years old.
Since then, the museum has acquired many other historical pieces, including a Weston State Hospital wheelchair and an apothecary chandelier. The museum is on the first floor at the WVU Heath Sciences Center North.
Lang has nothing but praise for DeGripps work.
Darryls work is excellent and demonstrates a love for the institutions historical resources,the provost said.He has provided a great service to the institution. It is now incumbent upon us to watch over the historical resources Darryl has identified for posterity.
WVU s historic furniture and artifacts are available for viewing during normal WVU operational hours at the following locations: E. Moore, Woodburn, Martin and Stewart halls, Purinton House and Wise Library.
To visit the WVU Cook-Hayman Pharmacy Museum, contact W. Clarke Ridgway, assistant dean of student services, at 293-7806 or Arthur Jacknowitz at 293-1468.
A complete list of historical furniture and artifacts is in the Department of History in Woodburn Hall.