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Watson-Brown Foundation Gives $1.4 Million

Tuesday, October 21, 2003

SPARTANBURG, SC – The Wofford College Board of Trustees today announced that the college has received a $1.4 million grant from the Watson-Brown Foundation for the restoration of Leonard Auditorium and its foyer in the historic Main Building.

The announcement was made on the steps of the historic Main Building at the close of the board’s two-day meeting.

Main Building is the centerpiece of the Wofford College campus. Recognized for its twin towers, it is one of the five remaining of the six original buildings on campus that have been in continuous use throughout the college’s history.

Tad Brown, director of the Watson-Brown Foundation in Thomson, Ga., said, “We are delighted to help Wofford restore its historic Main Building. We hope our gift helps to preserve not only the building, but helps support Wofford’s legacy and displays the endurance of the liberal arts education.”

Dr. Benjamin B. Dunlap, president of Wofford, said, “Old Main is the beating heart at the center of our effort to maintain a perfect balance of change and innovation. Every graduate who has attended Wofford College during its 150-year history has studied in its classrooms, and that will be true for at least another century and a half as we proceed from the auditorium and its lobby to the remainder of the building. This magnificent grant from the Watson-Brown Foundation establishes both the style and the incentive with which to finish the job.”

The restoration of Leonard Auditorium will be directed by Donnie Love, an historical architect with McMillan Smith & Partners Architects in Spartanburg.

“Old Main is one of the buildings in Spartanburg that I have always wanted to have a part in restoring because it’s such a wonderful building designed by Edward C. Jones, a very prominent South Carolina architect,” said Love, who also is involved in the restoration of the Jones-designed Walker Hall at the South Carolina School for the Deaf and the Blind. “Architecturally, Main Building is one of the few buildings of that era surviving, and for a building of its age it is wonderful that it is so close to its original design. From Wofford’s standpoint, this restoration will go a long way to show the college’s commitment to preserving its past while looking to its future.”

Existing seating and other non-historic materials will be removed from the facility, and pew-style seating will be installed. Period wood wainscot, chair rail, wood molding and trim will resemble the original materials in the auditorium and lobby areas. The ceiling will be reconstructed to resemble the original coffered ceiling, and the large windows will be restored or replaced. Wood flooring will be added to the auditorium’s first floor and stage, and the front of the stage will be rebuilt so that it will resemble an early design.

Modern amenities also will be added or upgraded, such as new sound and lighting systems for the stage, new house lights to include historic reproduction chandeliers and wall brackets. The auditorium also will receive a new heating and air-conditioning system, designed to function quietly to minimize disruptions during performances and programs.

It is expected that the renovation will begin in early 2004, with completion targeted for the spring of 2005.

The Watson-Brown Foundation, a non-profit corporation founded in 1970 by the late Walter J. Brown, long-time owner/CEO of Spartan Radiocasting Co., provides college opportunities for underprivileged boys and girls as well as grants to Southern colleges and universities to encourage the humanities and promote scholarship in the South. Named for Thomas E. Watson and J.J. Brown, the foundation today awards annually more than $1 million in merit and need-based college scholarships to students from the central Savannah River area of Georgia and South Carolina. The foundation is located in Thomson, Ga., hometown of Thomas E. Watson.

Read more about the history of the Main Building in
Main Building and Leonard Auditorium: An Historical Perspective