Carr Building

“Carr Building Presented:”[1] A Monument to Julian Shakespeare Car

By Rachel C. Kirby

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Carr Building, not dated. Source: UNC Planroom.

Carr Building, not dated. Source: UNC Planroom.

Carr Building, originally Carr Dormitory, opened in 1900 and was the first building on UNC’s campus fully funded by one single donor during his or her lifetime. Julian Carr’s donation was,  at the time, the largest individual monetary gift ever given to the University.[2]

"A posed portrait of a man with short gray hair and mustache, wearing a jacket, necktie with pin, pince-nez eyeglasses, and a carnation on his jacket lapel, facing left and looking at the camera." Source: The Carolina Story.

Julian Shakespeare Carr, 1845-1924
Source: The Carolina Story.

Carr was a native North Carolinian who attended the University of North Carolina before serving in the Confederate cavalry. At the conclusion of the Civil War, he became a partial owner of W.T. Blackwell and Company in Durham, a tobacco manufacturing company that helped Carr become incredibly wealthy. He made many contributions to higher education, including an 1890 gift that allowed for a new history chair, and donations to what is now Duke University’s campus, along with the funds for this building. Carr is also known for the controversial speech he gave in 1913 at the dedication of the statue now known as Silent Sam, commissioned by the United Daughters of the Confederacy and located on UNC’s McCorkle Place quad. In the speech, he advocated for the Anglo Saxon race, and he spoke about beating a “negro wench.”

Carr Building was designed by the architecture firm Zachary & Zachary, which was simultaneously working on updates for Alumni Hall. The two buildings were meant to complement each other, using the same shade of gray stone requested by Carr.[3] Carr building exceeded its initial budget, but was completed and opened in 1900. At the building dedication on June 8, 1900, veteran, University alum, and banker William H.S. Burgwyn gave an address in which he hypothesized how Carr would reflect upon the building at the end of his life stating

Among visions of what good he has done for his fellow-man will arise the form of a beautiful building, graceful in its proportions, inviting in its arrangements, built of material to defy the effacing finger of corroding time, surrounded by trees of primeval growth; and he will see the ingenuous youth of the land go in and out of its doors; and when the darkness of the day invites to contemplation and study within, bright lights will appear, and a halo will overshadow the building, and the vision will last forever.[4]

Burgwyn’s rhetoric suggests that this building is not simply a University structure designed for the use by young students paid for by Carr. This was and is a monument to Carr himself. The gray stones, so carefully selected, were to be indestructible and permanent, much like the values and ideals of Carr. Yet the building has been altered, and members of the UNC community now question Carr’s morality. Carr’s influence and legacy on this campus and the surrounding North Carolina Triangle is undeniable, as the landscape still bears his name.

Despite grand intentions, the building quickly needed renovation, as representatives of the Trustees, in 1910 discovered it already be in “deplorable condition.” It was renovated in 1911, 1923, all through the 1930s, and in 1941. In 1945 it also housed women.  By the 1950s and ‘60s it was home to foreign students and the International Student Center Office, beginning the transition from a fully-residential structure to an administrative building. In 1972, however, it was still at least in partly residential, as electrical renovations were paid for with dorm reserve funds. By 1992, the use of the building appears to have become fully non-residential, reflecting the current administrative functions of the space.[5]

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[1] University of North Carolina (1793-1962), Carr Building Presented: a Handsome gift Worthily Presented and Received on Commencement Day at Chapel Hill, N.C., June 8, 1900, (Philadelphia: G.H. Buchanan, 1900).

[2] Carr Building Presented, 7

[3] Letter from Z&Z dated August 14, 1899. Folder 670, Box 20, in the University of North Carolina Papers #40005, University Archives, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

[4] Carr Building Presented, 23-24.

[5] “Our Home in Carr Building,” Office of Faculty Governance, Accessed December 7, 2015. http://faccoun.unc.edu/contact-us/our-home-in-carr-building/.