Wills Hall

Wills Hall

Wills Hall was the library from 1923 until Carmicheal Library was opened in 1969.  The Board of Trustees authorized the construction of the building at the same meeting (May 1921) that it instructed Dr. Palmer to expand the curriculum to make the school a degree-granting college.

The library originally (1896-97) was a project of a number of Montevallo women interested in forming a literary club.  They engaged the support of the Alabama Federation of Women’s Clubs in supplying books and periodicals for a library.  Before 1923 the books had been stored in many temporary places, from the pastor’s study at the Baptist church to the “Fun Room” on the second floor of Main.

Warren, Knight, and Davis were the architects, and Smallman and Bryce the contractors, who used Alabama materials almost exclusively.  Interesting architectural features include beautiful arched windows on the side toward Palmer Hall and a triple arch Palladian window at each end of the ninety foot reading room.

In 1939-40, more stacks and a periodical room were added, doubling the size of the building.  Another change came in 1968-69 when the building was renovated and enlarged for the College of Education.  Air-conditioned, completely carpeted, serviced by an elevator and furnished with colorful equipment, it is now an office classroom building – but one that combines the traditional and modern.

In 1975, an addition was added to the west, doubling the size of the building.  Dampier Harris and Associates were the architects; R.H. Parsons and Company the contractors.  Funds came from the Alabama Public School and College Authority.

Edward Houston Wills (1882-1946)

Edward Houston Wills was connected with this school from 1909 until his death in June 1946, thirty-seven years.  To each of the three presidents he served under – Palmer, Carmichael, and Harman – he was “a good right arm, handling the countless business details of the college.”

With degrees from both Alabama Polytechnic Institute and Cornell University, he was equipped to move from position to position as the need arose.  He came to what was then Alabama Girls’ Industrial School as purchasing agent; he was soon adding classes in history and, later, commercial law.  By 1929 he had become Registrar and Business Manager; but in 1945-46, his last year, the two positions had been divided with him remaining Business Manager.

But Mr. Wills was more than a good business manager.  As the Montgomery Advertiser said at his death, he was an admirable gentlemen “with warmth and an honest humanity that drew students to him for friendship and counsel.”  Twice students honored him publicly – in 1933 they dedicated the yearbook to him and in 1940, College Night.

Wills Hall is named in his honor.  After his death his widow, Phoebe Wills, continued to live in Montevallo, maintaining a close relationship with the campus.  She was for many years the gracious hostess at Reynolds Hall and assistant to the Head of Residence.  She outlived her husband by a third of a century, dying in 1981.

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

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