A little more than one hundred years ago, Lewisburg Seminary (later Greenbrier College for Women) had three buildings – Carnegie Hall, Greenbrier Hall, and the North House. Two of the buildings, Carnegie Hall and Greenbrier Hall, were built in 1902 to replace the three buildings burned in the fire of 1901. The first Greenbrier Hall was built to last. It had 22-inch brick walls and its kitchen and heating plant were detached. It lasted, however, less than 20 years. Carnegie Hall was more fortunate, and is a vibrant part of our community today.
On Jan. 3, 1921, a fire destroyed the first Greenbrier Hall and most of its contents. Students were on Christmas break; two girls had returned and were forced to jump from a third-floor window. The community helped fight the fire and opened their homes to the returning faculty and students. The Greenbrier Independent (Jan. 21) related that all teachers and students were “now comfortably quartered and all fully satisfied and much pleased. A dining room had been fitted up in the basement of Carnegie Hall where the girls take their meals as if nothing had happened.” The two girls who jumped were taken care of by the school nurse at the Lewisburg Community Center; later, they then went home to Chicago.
No record of the cause of the fire exists, but much information is available about the efforts to build a new building. Indeed, the activity to raise money to rebuild reached out to everyone. The amount of $75,000 (over $1,100,000 in today’s money) was the original estimate. The community responded as they had the year before when $30,000 was needed for repairs and for purchasing the North House.
Less than six months from the time of the fire, the cornerstone for the new Greenbrier Hall was laid at the May graduation. The question remained: Would Greenbrier Hall be ready by for the opening of the 1921-22 school year in September? It was not, but it was ready for 110 boarding students when the school reopened on Oct. 16, 1921.
As I look at this lovely red brick building today, three thoughts come to mind:
How did they build this magnificent building in less than eight months?
How fortunate that no girl in her formal dress and high heels ever fell down those steps at Greenbrier College coronations! (No railings as there are now.)
How wonderful that once again it is a place of education, and we can count on the citizens of this area to support all worthwhile educational ventures.