UNIVERSITY GYMNASIUM (ORIGINAL) / COMMONS HALL
- This building does not appear in any tours yet.
- Fri, 04/02/2021 - 1:13pm by SteveR
Built in 1885 for use as a ballroom. On-campus dancing was against University regulations, so several students formed the "University Gymnasium Association" and purchased the building so as to be able to have "modern dances" on campus. The building was rented to the University for use as a gymnasium when dances were not being held.
Starting in 1896 the building was used as a dining hall. Students paid a monthly fee ($8.00 in 1897) for three meals a day. Within ten years its 200 seat capacity was inadequate for the growing student population, and UNC President Francis Venable called for a “new Commons Hall of double the former capacity.” Additionally, there was many a complaint (mostly via The Tar Heel newspaper) about the quality of the food being served, an issue that wasn't solved until faculty and dining committee members actually tried to eat a meal there and to say the least were not impressed. By the way, "Good food, well cooked, and plenty of it" was the original motto of the hall; the saying went that the first declaration was likely true ("good food"), but only in its uncooked state.
The building as a dining hall was succeeded in 1914 when Swain Hall (a.k.a. Swine Hall) was built as the University's dining hall. In late 1915 the University Gymnasium Association donated the structure to the University. The 1915 Sanborn map shows the building as vacant; a 1917 map of the campus by the YMCA lists the structure as the "Old Commons." By 1919 the structure was demolished or dismantled/moved to make way for Phillips Hall.
The ballroom/gymnasium, view south west, 1892 (image via UNC)
Commons Hall, view south west, circa 1913 (image via UNC)
March 1911 Sanborn Map excerpt
Commons Hall, view south west, circa 1914 (photo by Elizabeth Tannahill Bain, via UNC)
Dining room interior, 1890s (image via UNC)
The serving staff, made up mostly of students who ate for free, 1890s (image via UNC)
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