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Calkins Hall

Calkins Hall

Calkins Hall was originally built to house the Department of Music and served that purpose from its completion in 1917 until the new music hall was completed in 1971.  It was renovated for administrative offices in 1972-73 and today, is used accordingly.

Wartime conditions with shortages of labor and materials delayed the completion of the building and, by 1917, had increased the final cost several thousand dollars to $31,237.50.

Although the building was smaller than originally planned and the studios diminutive in size, it was the “jewel” of the campus.  Built of brick in the Williamsburg style, it had “unusual charm and permanence from the (hand) carved stone entrance to the lovely concert room upstairs.”  The whole interior was decorated with details of musical instruments.  The concert hall was finished in ivory and old gold and the walls richly decorated with plasterwork.  The dark blue stage curtain gave an accent of color.

Evan Terry was the architect for the renovation in 1972-73; Lewis Mayson, an authority on old buildings, who had supervised the work at King House, was the contractor and general supervisor.  Under their direction, Calkins was completely renovated.  Almost everything inside, from the roof to the carpet and drapes was moved, replaced, refinished or redecorated.  The most obvious change was on the second floor where suites of offices replaced the concert hall.  The rooms are still beautiful but more functional than before.

Housing the offices of the President it was the first building on campus wholly given to administration.  The Board of Trustees Conference Room, where the Board meets quarterly, is also located in the building.

Charles Rendell Calkins

Calkins Hall is named for the man who directed the Music Department from 1916 until his death in Boston on August 28, 1921, just a few days before the opening of the fall term.

Mr. Calkins was a New Englander by both birth and training.  He lived in Melrose Highlands, Massachusetts and studied Faelton Pianoforte School where he graduated in 1908.

His first teaching assignment was in the South, although it is not clear how he got from Boston to Evergreen, Alabama.  In Evergreen he was in charge of music instrumentation at the Second District Agricultural School where he put many of his ideas in to practice; he organized an orchestra, a brass band for the boys and a community choral society.  Furthermore, he was an organist and choir director at the Baptist church where, according to the pastor, he was an exceptionally fine musician and teacher.

After leaving Alabama, he spent the next to years in Winnipeg, Manitoba, where he was soloist with the largest choral group and gave concerts in conjunction with Saint Paul Symphony.

He had many opportunities to use his musical skills in Canada but the severe climate there made him long for the mild weather of Alabama.  So when President Palmer offered him a position in Montevallo, he readily accepted, but with the clear understanding that he would reorganize the department.  The school bulletins of the next two or three years show that he enlarged course offerings and organized music groups, both on campus and in the community.

As time went on, he became one of the most influential factors in standardizing school music study in Alabama and other states where he was a frequent consultant.

At the first meeting of the 1921-1922 session, the faculty adopted resolutions which praised him for being a great and inspiring leader and an artist of the highest type, a man of high ideals, clear vision and lofty purposes, a devoted friend to faculty and students, a true citizen active in all that made for the highest good of the community and state.

(This is an excerpt from White Columns & Red Bricks by Lucille Griffith, Ph. D.)

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Bloch Hall

Bloch Hall was the first entirely academic building built for the new school, but it was not built until 1915.  During the prior twenty years, the “industrials” which made the Alabama Girls’ Industrial School distinctive had been taught “all over town” – in Reynolds and Main Halls, in temporary buildings and even in private homes.  In the early years, for example, cooking was taught in the kitchen of the E. S. Lyman home.

On August 27, 1914 the Building Committee accepted plans of architect W. T. Warren for the “new science building.”  It was ready for use the following June.  Contractor R. V. Labone built it for $60,000, the original contract price, “unusual in Alabama school building history.”

As in the case of all other old buildings, Bloch has been renovated several times to make it more modern and more adaptable to current needs.  In the beginning, all science classes were taught in this two-story (plus basement) building but after Harman Hall was built, only Family & Consumer Sciences and Art departments are housed here.  The gracious Lois Askerley Living Room on first floor is a special feature, as is The Gallery in the basement.

Bloch Hall is named for Sol D. Bloch, who introduced the bill in the Legislature to create this school.

Sol D. Bloch (1855-1924)

It would be difficult to overestimate the importance of Sol Bloch in the early history of this school.  In fact, it is doubtful that the school would ever have taken form or survived those first crucial years without Mr. Bloch’s wisdom and sound business sense.

For years the idea of some kind of practical school for girls had been tossed about, but it was Senator Bloch from Camden who introduced the bill in the Alabama Legislature to establish the Alabama Girls’ Industrial School.  On the very last day of the legislative session, February 21, 1892, the bill passed both houses; Mr. Bloch had himself appointed a special messenger to take it to Governor Thomas G. Jones for signing all in one day!  It was a great triumph for Bloch and the young women of Alabama.

This was only the beginning of Mr. Bloch’s connection with the school.  He served on the Board of Trustees until shortly before his death in 1924.  Until the school had a treasurer, he was chairman of the Finance Committee, scrutinizing every expenditure (and often complaining the school was spending too much for such items as butter and turnip greens) and paying every bill.  But he kept the school solvent.  He often visited the campus several days at a time to see if there were ways to make improvements.  He considered being a trustee the greatest honor of his life.

Until shortly before his death he always came to the opening of the school and returned for commencement.  In the fall, he would go to Montevallo on the same train with “his girls,” seeing that they were well cared for and had all the fruit and candy that the “butcher boy” had.  He loved the girls and they loved him.  Once he overheard one of the girls say they were all “chips off the Old Bloch.”  That pleased him greatly.  After he could no longer visit the campus, he regularly sent flowers for the opening of school, Founder’s Day and other ceremonial occasions.

While the school may have been his “true love,” he had other interests.  He was born of Bavarian immigrant parents in Wilcox County, Alabama where he grew up.  He studied law, became a merchant with wide connections, served his hometown as alderman and mayor, and his state as a legislator.  He was a Democrat, a Mason, a Pythian and an active member of many historical and wrote long sketches for the Wilcox Progress and the Wilcox Progressive Era, both of which he owned.

Mr. Bloch was present for the dedication of the science building on January 16, 1915, but although he had worked hard to get it built, he did not know until then that the new hall was to be named for him.

(This is an excerpt from White Columns & Red Bricks by Lucille Griffith, Ph. D.)

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