If these walls could talk: historical trivia about Carolina buildings
Steward’s Hall served as the University’s dining hall from 1795 to 1816. According to student letters, maggots found in the food inspired some to hunt for game in woods on the edge of campus as an alternative.
- The two gargoyles and the statue of Archbishop of Canterbury Stephen Langton on the south side of Person Hall formerly adorned London’s Big Ben. Person opened in 1797 as the student chapel. It was later used as a chemistry laboratory and as the home for the medicine and pharmacy schools as well as the music and art departments.
- Bynum Hall opened in 1905 as the gymnasium where Carolina played its first intercollegiate basketball game against Virginia Christian College, now Lynchburg College. It also provided male students with a swimming pool where they often swam in the nude.
- The “Tin Can,” a large, warehouse-like building, served as the University’s main sports arena from 1924 to 1938. After World War II, it housed returning veterans enrolled at Carolina.
- Woollen Gym, home to the men’s basketball team from 1938 to 1965, also served as temporary quarters for baseball legend Ted Williams and former presidents Gerald Ford and George H.W. Walker Bush while they attended the pre-flight training school the U.S. Navy operated here during World War II.
- Morehead Planetarium and Science Center, the first planetarium in the South when it opened in 1949, is where Apollo astronauts, including Neil Armstrong and “Buzz” Aldrin, studied celestial navigation.
- A Teflon-coated fiberglass fabric that emits natural light on the playing floor covers the 115-foot roof of the Dean E. Smith Center.
- Steele Building, which opened in 1921 as a dormitory, housed Carolina’s first three African-American undergraduates in the 1950s. From 1952 until the current Daniels Student Stores opened in 1968, the basement of Steele contained the student store known as “The Booketeria.”
- The opening of Kenan Labs in 1971 ushered in the arrival of Brutalist architecture, a name derived from the French for “raw concrete.” It was featured in an April 2011 article in the Carolina Alumni Review called “Campus Architecture Review: The Worst of the Worst.”
These and other tidbits about historic campus buildings are part of the exhibit “A Dialogue Between Old and New: Notable Buildings on the UNC Campus” now on display in the North Carolina Collection Gallery in Wilson Library.