that would have been much, much too large for usefulness, and besides the Old Well would have been embarrassingly off-center. So the three parts became Old East, South and Old West. South Building faced north until the 1920s, when the imposing portico was added to give it a new orientation toward the southward migration of the campus. The cupola that surveys McCorkle and Polk places from atop the building is the building's third. The first one rotted a few years after it was built, and the second burned in 1856, the target ofa flaming rag ball thrown by a student. One campus history says this happened "during a sport of throwing fireballs." Perhaps generations yet to come will study a photo of900 stu- dents taken in front of South on March 7, 1974, and conclude that the sport of that day was visiting the administration building with no clothes on. The University bell was in place in the new cupola in time for a three-hour dirge one day in 1865 to commemorate the marriage of Eleanor Swain, daughter of President David Swain, to Union Gen. Smith Atkins. Its most fanl0USringing, of course, came on the other side of the Civil War, when Cornelia Phillips Spencer climbed to the belfry on March 20, 1875, to c"'elebrate the re-opening of the University. (And/or to let the Hill know it was her 50th birthday.) Other great moments in South Building history include the mugging of President Caldwell, as he made nighttime rounds among the shanties inside the unfinished building, by a student who apparently mis- took him for an opponent in a previous brawl; the practice of driving cows up to the third floor for a special greeting to professors as they arrived the ne.>..1: morn- ing; and the discovery in the basement of a cache of homemade liquors belonging to the campus woodcutter in the 1820s.
the University belonged to his grandfather.
Julius Page was the campus construction
superintendent during the building boom
of the late 1920s and early '30s. His pro-
jects included Wilson Library, Kenan
Stadium, Memorial Hall, the Bell Tower,
the upper quad dorms and Graham
As a boy, Simpson, now a creative
writing teacher at Carolina, walked the
campus with Page and soaked up his leg-
endary knowledge of the grounds on
which all these were built, all the details
of their construction. What else would
he think but that his granddad owned the
There was another major project. By
the mid-1920s South Building was badly
run down. "I remember him telling me
Students gather in front of South Building by the Old Well, circa 1886.
How close did it come?
Bland Simpson ' 70 grew up thinking
there were numerous places you could
put your finger, your hand, even an arm
through the [holes in the] outer walls,"
Simpson said. The administration and trustees
weighed the cost ofrehab vs. demolish
and rebuild-they were about the same.
Simpson has a hunch Julius Page may ·
have been the man who tilted the scales.
He certainly would have been in a position
to. "He estimated the salvageable materials
value ifit was tom down to be next to
nothing," Simpson recalled. "He was
reluctant to be responsible for tearing down
one of the great landmarks of the state. He
said he thought he'd be doing the people
of North Carolina a great disservice."
The folks who run the place, who had
moved out of South Building and into
Alumni Hall just after the tum of the
century, moved back in for good with the
renovation. Where students had lived,
where Joseph Caldwell had studied the
heavens as an astronomer, where the
campus water tank once was located-
where Maryon "Spike" Saunders ' 25 had
lived a a student and had his office as
alumni secretary - South was exclusively
administration after 1927.
Today it looks like the place you ought
to be taken to see the chancellor or the
provost or dean of the College of Arts
and Sciences. Though askew from its
intended location, it landed on the high
ground to which Polk Place slopes up on
the south and McCorkle Place slopes up
on the north.
John Sanders ' 50, director ofthe Insti-
tute of Government for 25 years and today
equally respected as a University historian
and advocate for its future,
his wife, Ann Beal Sanders
' 47, and friends Meigs ' 49
and Peggy Golden this year
on University Day presented
Carolina with a new sandstone
cornerstone for South Building,
j to replace the original that
either was taken or disappeared
t.i sons debated, prayed, slept z
and threw the occasional
fireball; where later students
paused from streaking to have their picture
made-and finally, in 1993, held a two-
week sit-in to demand a Polk Place location
for the Black Cultural Center-its brick
shell is all that is 200 years old. Sanders, a
man who, like Hooker, appreciates the past
but doesn't sugar it, reminds us that "there
isn't a stick of wood that was in there"
before the 1920s.
Space limitations pemnt us only to sum-
marize that so many, many of the impor-
tant decisions upon which the Uni;rersity
has pivoted were made within its walls.
-David E. Braum ' 75
Thanks to Kevin O'Kelly ' 90, currently a
graduate student in il'iformation and library
science, who mined several histOlies for serious
and off-beat South Building materialfor a
Un.iversity Day speech.
C ARO LIN A A LU MNI R EVIEW