First Building Cornerstone and Founders Hall

A Walking Tour of Mars Hill University

First Building Cornerstone and Founders Hall

Mars Hill, North Carolina 28754, United States

Created By: Mars Hill University


Upon its founding in 1856, Mars Hill University consisted of only one large two-story brick building that stood at this site. Known as the First Building, both the campus and the town of Mars Hill steadily grew around this structure which stood for years as the center of campus. The First Building remained a staple of campus until its destruction in 1910.

Directly across from the site of the First Building stands Founders Hall. Opened over 120 years ago, Mars Hill University recognizes Founders Hall as the oldest original structure still standing on the campus today. Described as modest and unappealing by former campus visitors and historians, this century plus old building provides visitors few visible clues to its true meaning and importance in the history of the institution. During the early years of this institution's history, what has been labeled as an internal crisis amongst campus leaders arose and caused those associated with the school to worry about its future. These concerns resolved themselves through the election of Thomas McDowell Hufham as the institutions eleventh president in 1890. Founders Hall would become the only building erected during President Hufham’s brief tenure and remains today as a reminder of his impact on the campus. The construction of Founders Hall would truly become a community effort.

First referenced in the minutes from the May 19, 1891 trustees meetings in which they assigned J.S. Yeodes the task of designing the site, Founders Hall represents the first attempted expansion of Mars Hill since the end of the Civil War. School officials and community members set out themselves to complete the project, molding and firing the bricks used by hand and raising funds to purchase materials they themselves could not furnish. In December 1891, school leaders placed Lee B. Ramsey in charge of construction and building oversight. However, despite the first part of the building opened to use in 1892, construction to finish the project had ultimately stalled. In response to this, George G. Tillery was assigned the task of overseeing completion of the construction, which happened in the winter of 1893. Simply known as a classroom building or the Music Building following its construction, the building was renamed Founders Hall in 1978 and in 1990, it underwent a large scale renovation.

This point of interest is part of the tour: A Walking Tour of Mars Hill University


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