Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Return to Davidson

Last weekend I went to my 10-year (ack!) college reunion at Davidson. Since I didn't take nearly enough photos the first time around, I spent some time recording some of my favorite sights on the beautiful campus. This is Chambers, the main academic building. At Christmastime, the whole community gathers on the lawn to hear the Chaplain speak and watch Santa rappel down the front of the building. You can't see it in the picture, but while I was there I got to see the ghost of Old Chambers. The current building is set back somewhat from the footprint of its predecessor, which burned down. When the weather is dry for prolonged periods, the grass will not grow where the footprint of Old Chambers was. We like to refer to the ladies atop the building as the chambermaids.


As a member of the Davidson College Concert Choir for two years, I spent a good amount of time rehearsing and performing in the Presbyterian church on campus. I've always liked the light, airy feel of the place.


Just inside the entrance of the library is the seal of the college. The college motto is
"Let Learning Be Cherished Where Freedom Has Arisen"


On the outside of the library are the seals and mottoes of the two societies. Founded in 1837 along with the founding of the college, the Philanthropic (motto: Truth Without Fear) and Eumenean Societies were the core of social and intellectual campus life.


Graduation from one of these societies was considered just as important as graduation from the college. The buildings of the two societies face on another at the center of old campus. In early days, students would conduct debates from the balconies across the spectator-filled lawn. Here are two views of the exterior of Philanthropic Hall.



Now, much more sparsely attended, Phi and Eu are primarily literary societies. I can't speak to what Eu does these days, but Phi still holds dear many of the original traditions. Below is the dais, with the society President's seat at the center. The portraits are of past college presidents. The Vice-President, who opens the meeting with a bible verse, sits on the President's left. The Critic sits to the right of the President and reads the Word of the Day (a newer tradition, to be sure). To the right of the Critic is a bust of Dante, who occasionally can be found wearing a scarf or hat. Not shown in the photograph are the desk of the treasurer (on Dante's right, photo left) and the desk of the Secretary (left of the Vice-President, photo right). I held the post of Secretary my senior year. I was delighted to open the massive desk and find the membership and minutes books bearing my handwriting still inside. When full, the books will return to the college archives to sit alongside their forbears. My diplomate, along with those of all other Phi graduates, is already in the archives.

Sadly, the Hall is in the same state of disrepair as it was 10 years ago. I suppose I should be grateful that it isn't much worse. Still, a renovation campaign is in order. The walls need attention and the chandelier is still missing an arm. The carpet and drapes are faded and threadbare. The furniture begs for some careful work. Here is a high quality photo from better days. Legend (possibly apocryphal) has it that the chandelier is a twin to the one made for the marriage of Napoleon III. Supposedly it hung in the Crystal Palace for the World's Fair but then was among the items sold off to settle debts for the failing enterprise. True or not, the chandelier is a college treasure. I take immense pride in being a graduate of Phi Society and hold very dear my memories of that time.

Just next to Phi Hall is Davidson's most recognizable landmark, the Well. Not visible in the picture, just behind and to the right of the Well, is the sesquicentennial garden, in commemoration of the college's 150th anniversary in 1987.

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posted by Adriana at 10:48 PM

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