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.)