A class in Peabody Elementary School is shown in the 1920s. Edith Wellshear (back row, left) was a student teacher. Photo courtesy of Special Collections
Peabody Hall Stands as Symbol of University's History
The history of Peabody Hall, situated on the northeast corner of the University of Arkansas campus, is quite well-known.
George Peabody, image courtesy Library of Congress
Peabody Hall was constructed in 1913.
A class photo from 1966
Sen. J. William Fulbright
Contact Heidi Stambuck if you would like to borrow a copy of Chris Lucas' book.
Peabody Hall was the first building built on the campus with private funds. The university constructed the three-story building in 1913 with a contribution of $40,000 from the Peabody Education Fund. The fund was named for George Peabody, a Massachusetts-born and London-based merchant banker who established the fund after the Civil War with $2 million to promote public education. Many other educational buildings and programs, such as George Peabody College at Vanderbilt University and the Peabody Institute of the Johns Hopkins University, share the name of Peabody. George Peabody is considered by some to be the father of modern philanthropy.
Peabody Hall was originally, and remains, the home of the teacher-education program at the University of Arkansas, which means of all the buildings on campus it has operated the longest with a single continual purpose. The teacher-training program was a part of the university from its beginning in 1871, with the Department of Education moving from Old Main into Peabody Hall once it was finished in 1913. The curriculum and instruction department is now one of five academic departments in the university's College of Education and Health Professions.
Peabody Hall was the site of Peabody Elementary School and University High School for more than 50 years, during which time children of faculty and staff members as well as other children from around the state were educated in a public school setting. University students in the education program worked in the classrooms with faculty of the school to gain experience before becoming certified as teachers. The high school closed in 1962 and the elementary school closed in 1966, although a small kindergarten was maintained until the early 1980s. University students in the education program now complete internships off campus, teaching in local public schools.
One of the most famous Arkansans ever was among the children educated at the training school. The late U.S. Sen. J. William Fulbright, D-Ark., attended the training school from kindergarten through high school. Following his graduation from University High School, Fulbright stayed on the Fayetteville campus and earned a bachelor's degree in political science in 1925. It was not until he attended Oxford University in England for graduate studies on a Rhodes scholarship that he left the Fayetteville campus. The Arkansas statesman is known worldwide for the international student exchange program that bears his name. He served as president of the university from 1939 to 1941 and then in Congress from 1943 through 1974. He was the longest-serving chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
Constructed of red brick with Carthage Stone trim and a clay tile roof, Peabody Hall included elements of the Spanish or Mission Revival Style. Along with all of the other buildings on campus, Peabody Hall was painted a light cream color in the 1940s so that it would better blend with the light-colored limestone buildings that were part of Jamieson & Spearl's 1925 Master Plan for campus.
The history of Peabody Hall is intertwined with the history of the University of Arkansas. One of only five buildings remaining on the campus from the pre-1925 period of development, Peabody will remain an integral element of the university's mission in the future. On Nov. 13, the university's Board of Trustees approved the issuance of $64 million in bonds for capital improvements on the Fayetteville campus that include restoration and renovation of Peabody Hall. The Peabody project is expected to cost $8.8 million.
Much of what is known about Peabody Hall and the training school was compiled in a book by Christopher Lucas, University of Arkansas professor of higher education, called Demonstrating Good Practices: A Brief Historical Profile of the University Training School and its Predecessors. The soft-cover book is one of two University of Arkansas histories authored by Lucas. He also wrote Yesterday and Today, a history of the College of Education and Health Professions, published in 1997, when the college's name was changed from the College of Education to more adequately reflect the broad array and full diversity of its academic and professional programs. Lucas has written or co-written 12 books, including several on the history of higher education in America and a guidebook for new faculty.
As a historian, Lucas laments what is not known about the history of Peabody Hall.
"There were so many things I would have liked to know about the career of the building itself, much less the programs, that was not available," Lucas said about his research. "There are stories – a former dean enjoyed hearing the children in gymnastic and dance class above his office. From 1913 through the late 1930s, everything is mushy.
"The Peabody Foundation doesn't have information, either," Lucas continued. "This building is unique in having the same purpose, the same program, over its entire lifetime. It was never taken over for other uses."
Although its use has remained the same since the final brick was laid, Peabody Hall's interior has been modified substantially over the years to accommodate the needs of faculty and students.
"The interior has changed so much it's difficult to tell what the original looked like," Lucas said. "The places where we do our work are subject to so many influences."
Buildings such as Old Main and Peabody Hall are symbols of an institution of higher education such as the University of Arkansas, he said. In his view, the dedication of Peabody Hall to the teacher education program showed the value the university's leaders put on education for the state's children.
"Teacher education was protected, given a prominent place," Lucas said. "The training school added a vitality to the building. It was not a run-of-the-mill, mundane sort of place. Progressive education was at is peak when Peabody Hall was new."
Lucas called the university's training school a direct descendant of the University of Chicago's experimental lab school founded by John Dewey, a leader in progressive education.
"The training school was operated very much in the progressive education tradition," Lucas said. "The teachers wrote letters to parents, instead of giving report cards."
Just as Old Main was restored in 1991, Peabody needs attention now to remain a usable facility.
"The building needs to be modernized, renovated, reshaped, but there is value in keeping the historical features rather than simply updating the building," he said.