Peabody Hall Primed for New Century
October 1, 2011
Peabody Hall celebrated a rebirth this fall on the campus of the University of Arkansas, two years away from the historic building's 100th birthday.
"This restoration will ensure that Peabody Hall will continue as a visible symbol of a university dedicated to teacher preparation and public education for the next 100 years," said Mike Daugherty, head of the department of curriculum and instruction in the College of Education and Health Professions.
"Faculty and staff began moving back into the building as painters, electricians, plumbers, architects and carpenters wrapped up their work," Daugherty said. "It became clear that, with the exterior paint and decades of wear and tear removed, Peabody Hall is poised for another century of service. It is an outstanding building with a historic past and, now, a great future."
History of Firsts
When philanthropist George Peabody undertook a rebuilding campaign following the Civil War to promote education across the south, he offered a gift of $40,000 to the University of Arkansas. In 1911, the university's Board of Trustees accepted the gift, and the construction of Peabody Hall was completed in 1913.
An Enduring Symbol of Education
That gift was the first private donation to the University of Arkansas, which years later became one of the first institutions of higher education in the nation to raise $1 billion in a capital campaign.
Many other educational buildings and programs in the country, 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 is also the only building on the campus to have operated with a single, continual purpose since it opened – teacher preparation. 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.
Peabody Hall also made history with its training school – made up of Peabody Elementary School and University High School – that operated for more than 50 years to provide practical teaching experience for university students as well as to expand educational opportunities for children in Northwest Arkansas. In the early years, many teens from outlying rural areas traveled to Fayetteville for the superior education offered at University High School.
Calvin Bain of Bella Vista received the opportunity to attend University High School when his best friend's father, a doctor in Prairie Grove, wanted a companion for his son at the campus-based school. Bain, a dentist now retired, considers that opportunity one of several lucky breaks he has experienced in his life. Bain and his friend, the late Ronald Riggall, graduated from University High School in 1942.
The late U.S. Sen. J. William Fulbright was undoubtedly the most famous training school student, attending from kindergarten through 12th grade. 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.
Fulbright's friend, renowned architect Edward Durell Stone, also attended University High School. Stone's work includes the Kennedy Performing Arts Center in Washington.
In the 1965-66 school year, the training school made history again when it enrolled a handful of black students. This was the year the Fayetteville School District closed its all-black elementary school and integrated the primary grades. Ocie Fisher of Fayetteville was a student in the combined fifth-sixth grade that year and recalled initial reluctance on the part of her classmates to befriend her. She made a breakthrough after she arm-wrestled some of the boys and her success brought down barriers with both the boys and girls in her class.
Joe Frost of Austin, a retired professor who taught at Iowa State University and the University of Texas, taught a class of fourth-, fifth- and sixth-grade children from 1961 through 1964.
"Since teaching in the U of A training school, I observed in hundreds of public and private elementary schools but never one that, in my opinion, was superior in providing for the individual needs of children," Frost wrote recently while reminiscing. "The children in all the elementary classes engaged in cooperative planning, often led by one of the children, personalized or individualized instruction, and experiential learning through special hands-on projects."
Constructed of red brick with Carthage stone trim and a clay tile roof, Peabody Hall included elements of the Spanish or Mission Revival Style, according to information in the university's Campus Preservation Master Plan. Along with all of the other buildings on campus at the time, Peabody 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 the 1925 Master Plan for campus.
Removal of several layers of the white paint was part of the restoration project started early in 2010 and directed by Allison Architects of Fayetteville, which led the $8.8 million project in partnership with a firm that specializes in historic restorations – Schwartz/Silver Architects of Boston. East-Harding of Little Rock was the general contractor.
New windows and doors replicating the original appearance of the building were installed, and the interior was renovated to provide modern academic and office space to accommodate the current and future needs of the college including six general purpose classrooms with Promethean interactive learning technology, a computer lab, a technology education lab, a seminar room, 43 faculty offices and departmental administrative offices, and a café for use by building occupants and the general campus.
The previously dirt-floored basement was converted to a lobby and loading/unloading area. Building systems, such as heating and air, audiovisual, information technology, electrical, plumbing and fire protection were updated to modern standards, and an elevator made the building completely accessible.
"The new Peabody Hall includes a state-of-the-art science teaching classroom and a technology and engineering laboratory," Daugherty said. "These two spaces will greatly augment the delivery of programs designed to prepare secondary science and secondary engineering educators. These two spaces are designed to serve as models of what a secondary classroom and laboratory should include.
"The updated environment in Peabody Hall allows us to utilize the latest instructional technology and facilities in the preparation of high quality teacher candidates and graduate students."