Bibb Graves Hall

Bibb Graves Hall

601 Cramer Way

Bibb Graves Hall was constructed in 1929 and dedicated the following year. Named for Democratic Governor Bibb Graves, then college president Henry Willingham called it "the single best college building in Alabama...in its appointments, workmanship, and material."

A Multi-Use Facility

At the building's dedication ceremony on May 28, 1930, then Alabama Governor Bibb Graves expressed, "Religion, morality, and education are the foundation without which a modern state cannot exist." The construction of such an impressive and multi-use facility spoke to his administration's investment and belief in the then Florence State Teachers College.


Bibb Graves Hall was built four stories high to house the college's administration offices, 21 classrooms, a library, museum, post office distribution center, common areas for students, and a "state of the art science lab."


Newspaper articles from 1930 describe a bookstore, soda fountain, and post office on the basement level "with separate loafing rooms for men and women." The soda fountain became a popular spot for students who called it "The Little Drug."


The first floor held a museum containing Native American artifacts, Civil War records, historic newspapers, books, and "many other curios." The museum was started by history professor J. Percy Dyer in 1928, moved to Bibb Graves when it opened, and moved again in 1948 to Rogers Hall. It is considered the predecessor to the university's Archives and Special Collections now located at Collier Library.


On the second floor, Bibb Graves also housed a library comprised of more than 18,000 volumes as well as the Southern Library, an institution shared by students and local Florence residents that housed an additional 2,000 volumes.

Architecture

Bibb Graves Hall was constructed by prominent Birmingham architecture firm Warren, Knight and Davis in the Gothic Revival style. Made of brick and locally sourced limestone, Bibb Graves Hall features gothic arches, nonstructural buttresses, and paired narrow windows, in keeping with the style. The main feature of Bibb Graves is its central square bell tower with castellated parapet walls and limestone spires atop each corner. The Gothic Revival style was most likely chosen to keep in harmony with Wesleyan Hall, another Gothic Revival styled building on campus that predates Bibb Graves.

The Chimes

The central tower on Bibb Graves Hall originally housed a set of Deagan Tubular Chimes in a soundproof chamber, insulated to prevent changes in pitch due to weather. There were 26 chimes in all with three octaves chromatically and one low tone for tolling the hour. The chimes were automatically set to play the popular Westminster Chimes and could auto play up to three selections from its player roll. Interestingly, any musical number could be played through the chimes using an organ keyboard, and a microphone could be used for choir numbers through the tower.


In 2016, the original chimes were replaced by an electronic Carillon Bell System that in addition to tolling the hour can play a variety of chime or bell music to coincide with special events or holidays and can also sound emergency alerts across campus.

Harrison Fountain

In front of Bibb Graves Hall is now one of the most iconic landmarks on the university's campus. Dedicated October 21, 2002, the Harrison Fountain is named for university alumna Laura Harrison. A graduate of the class of 1955, Harrison and her husband donated the funds for the construction of the fountain that quickly became the centerpiece of the campus redesign and restoration undertaken in the early 2000s. Today, annual events such as "Light the Fountain" in the spring and the "Lucky Dip" in the fall serve to further imprint this relatively new landmark onto the campus landscape.