Murfreesboro Historic Commission Donates to the Columns Preservation Fund
On Friday, October 28, Chowan University was presented with a donation from the Murfreesboro Historic Commission toward the Columns Preservation Fund. Present to receive the donation was Chowan President Kirk Peterson. On behalf of the Commission, James “Jimmy” Moore, Lynn Johnson, and John Parker presented the check at the foot of the historic McDowell Columns Hall staircase, all of whom have significant ties to the University and its iconic building.
James Moore, better known as Jimmy, is the great-great-grandson of one of the institution’s founders. Currently, he is the treasurer of the Commission. Mr. Moore serves on the 175th Anniversary Committee for Chowan University, which the President of Chowan appointed to help celebrate the significant anniversary in the institution’s history. He is also President of the Murfreesboro Historical Association and serves on the Chowan University Board of Visitors.
Lynn Johnson is a current Chowan University Board of Visitor member and was the first and only female Mayor of Murfreesboro since its establishment. She and her husband, Don, live in Murfreesboro and have done so for over fifty years. Her husband’s grandmother, Effa Parker Watson, sister, Margaret Sue (Peggy) Johnson, and brother-in-law, Kenneth Odom, were all students at Chowan, and a cousin’s wife, Loreese Britt, assisted in helping Chowan employees evaluate their students’ work. Mrs. Johnson’s older brother, Aubrey Woodward III, and sister, Lisa G. Woodard, were both students at Chowan before going further through education. Lynn was enrolled in tap classes under Marla Hunnings and art classes under Dr. Parker, which took place at Chowan.
John Parker, the Chair of the Commission, attended Chowan from 1958-1959. Mr. Parker had three aunts who attended Chowan, Rousseau Parker Lowder, Mary Georgania Parker Edwards, and Vera Parker Womble, and his sister Sarah Virginia Parker serves on the Board of Trustees. He and his wife, Rachel, have lived and taught in the school system of Hertford County. The Parkers were crucial in preserving the old Dr. Gary’s house, in which they relocated to Wynn Street in Murfreesboro and began the tedious task of renovations.
“The connections meander through many other families in the town,” shared Lynn Johnson. “The Historic Commission gave with this check to the Columns Preservation Fund and challenges other history lovers and lovers of Murfreesboro, and afar, to also give to this worthy cause of preserving the stately Columns building.” In addition, the Commission’s Secretary, Al Parker, and his brother Mark grew up on the campus as their mother, Jeanne R. Parker, taught English at Chowan and took music lessons. Their father, Alton Parker, attended Chowan as a student and their grandmother Brownie Gertrude Parker was the first in their family to attend Chowan. In addition, they were contributors to marketing and fundraising the university’s giving day, established a scholarship at Chowan, and have been creating websites and the like for the Murfreesboro Historical Association.
President Peterson shared with the group that “this is an incredible gift that we know is a significant contribution from the Commission, and we are thankful for its mission and folks who serve.” He added that he “is thankful for [the three who presented the check] and for [their] contributions to Chowan University and the town of Murfreesboro.”
The Murfreesboro Historic Commission includes just under three dozen members who are appointed by the Governor’s Office to serve a term appointed by the office. Their charge is to preserve as much valuable history in and around the Town of Murfreesboro. The Commission and its members played a significant role in publishing the book “West of the Chowan.” In addition, they are charged to aid the Murfreesboro Historical Association in their projects.
History of the McDowell Columns Hall
The founding of the historic McDowell Columns Building can be traced to the laying of its cornerstone on July 4, 1851, and stories about the survival of the building during the Civil War include one where the then president’s wife stood on its porch thwarting an invading Union army ready to acquire it as a hospital for troops.
An imposing Georgian Colonial-style brick and concrete structure with eight massive columns, a broad veranda, and an octagonal belvedere. The building has survived two wars-the Civil War and World War II (doors were closed), as well as numerous hurricanes. Standing for almost 170 years, it is on the National Registry of Historic Places.
Today the McDowell Columns Hall serves as the primary administration building on the Chowan University Campus. The following offices can be found there: president, provost, business office, financial aid, and academic success. The Campus Bookstore is also a part of the infrastructure. Turner Auditorium, which seats 650 is part of the complex and is the favored site of concerts and lectures.
The McDowell Columns Preservation Fund
Your gift to the McDowell Columns Preservation Fund provides critical support in maintaining one of the most significant pre-Civil War buildings serving Christian higher education in the mid-Atlantic region of the United States. The most significant exterior renovation was completed in 2009, with well over $1 million dollars given to preserve the exterior of the building. The Campaign For Columns saved the building and provided major structural improvements necessary for continued occupancy of the building.
Today, our efforts continue as we pledge again to maintain the heart and soul of our University – McDowell Columns Hall. Providing resources for routine maintenance and a permanent growing endowment will ensure preservation for generations to come. Interior and exterior maintenance issues remain. Join us today in supporting this significant historical icon.