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Frost Building

Excerpt from Building A College: An Architectural History of Berea College[1]


Frost Library Building, 1904-1907Frost Building

Originally: Carnegie Library

Architects: J. Cleveland Cady, L. DeCoppet Berg and Milton See, New York City

Mechanical Engineer: Richard D. Kimball, Boston, MA

Construction Supervisor: Josiah Burdette, Berea

Dedication and Cornerstone laid: June 6, 1905

Formal Opening and Dedication-Address: June 4, 1907

Cost: $33,000

Berea’s first library began in 1870, with gifts of about 600 books from ministers in northeastern states. These books were first housed in the Recitation Hall, a Wooden building across the street from Ladies’ Hall, were then moved to a room in Ladies’ Hall as Well as in Howard‘ Hall and finally to Lincoln Hall. The educational institution had no funds nor had she set aside any for book purchases. Instead the library began with the generosity of school friends. This Carnegie Library was one of only a few given by Andrew Carnegie to a private institution. First contacts and the $30,000 gift was arranged by of the discussion concerned the Commonwealth of Kentucky’s House Bill 25, the Day Law, barring the integrated education of Blacks and Whites. The Board voted unanimously to take action in the courts to test the constitutionality of Kentucky House Bill 25 and the legal rights of Berea College (BTM, March 30, 1904). Berea lost its legal action in the highest courts. This disruption in “Utopia” created a desperate moral dilemma and ultimately a need for funds ($400,000) to construct Lincoln Institute and to create an Adjustment Fund. Knowing the dire circumstances of the College and with the encouragement of President Frost, Carnegie came to the rescue and in addition to the money for the construction of this library, he pledged $200,000 for the Adjustment Fund (Frost Diary, Ian. 23, 1908; Berea Citizen, April 13, 1995, 1 & 3).

This library was originally planned to be used by College and Normal School students with uniquely separate libraries on the other three campuses designed to serve the Academy, Foundation School and Vocational School. Excavations for the library started during August 1904; but the architectural plans were not received by President Frost until October. Cleveland Cady was paid a five percent fee for the plans (BCABG, 5.39; BCA Administrative Records). Cady felt that the classical style of the Bedford limestone “demanded to be tooled (driven) or rubbed work”. This dressed stone came from Rockcastle County quarries that were owned and operated by a Cincinnati firm.

Because no stonemasons in Berea or Madison County were competent to “drive” the limestone (an eight grooves-to-the-inch finish), they were instead sawed and then rubbed to finish the surface (Cady letter to Frost, October 7, 1904). The limestone columns were taken to Cincinnati to be cut, the 210,000 bricks were made at the Brick Yaw at Ruckers Knob and laid by students. The maple and oak flooring was taken from the College forest. With its finely cut limestone, its mass, engaged half-columns, fine Ionic capitals and temple portico, the Carnegie Library is the cleanest classical or Federalist building on the Berea Campus. The roof was laid with red slate and incorporated a skylight over its entrance lobby. Metal book stacks were obtained from Art Metal Construction Company of Jamestown, NY, and were installed in the attached three-story brick block that was at the back of the building. Fireplaces were built into two of the large ground floor rooms but a heating system was also installed during March, 1905. Paneling and plaster work were completed during April, 1906.

Judge Curtis F. Burnam, LL.D., gave the address at the laying of the cornerstone on Commencement Day, June 6, 1905. With teams of student workers, it took three and a half hours on December 15, 1906, to move the books from Lincoln Hall to the new library (Berea Citizen, April 13, 1955, 3). Thus, the building was completed and first opened to the public for the winter term, January, 1907 (PAR, June 5, 1907). Dr. Canfield, Librarian of Columbia University, gave the address at the formal dedication on the evening of June 4, 1907. For ‘ a while the building also housed offices of the College President, Secretary, Treasurer, Purchasing Agent and the co-op store in the fire-proof basement stacks. These offices were all moved to Lincoln Hall in 1914. In later years, a fine children’s library for Knapp Hall students was housed in the Carnegie basement. Through 1941, the Library was the largest College library in the Commonwealth of Kentucky (Berea Alumnus, 11:6, 1941, 161-171). Miss Euphemia Corwin, the first professional librarian in the Commonwealth, served as the College Librarian from 1903 until 1933 (Her portrait by painter Bert Mullins hangs in the Hutchins Library). When the Carnegie Library opened, Berea had decreasing enrollments because of the Day Law and the subsequent displacement of Black students: 961 total students were enrolled in 1904, and only 862 in 1905. Berea organized a speaker’s and book Extension Program in 1899, but even earlier, had created traveling libraries to provide books to isolated mountain communities. During the first half of the twentieth-century, books were often mailed to readers. In 1930, 995 books were mailed, whereas 11,445 were mailed in 1954. Expanding the services even more, from 1916 until 1943 a Book Wagon or Book Car took books into the Berea Territories (Berea Citizen, April 3, 1980, 13). The Library was renamed for William Goodell Frost (President 1892-1920) who died September 15, 1938. Today the Departments of History, Political Science, Psychology and Sociology occupy the building after the library facilities moved into the newly constructed Hutchins Library in 1968. A tornado damaged the Frost Building and other campus buildings during April, 1996.

Library Reading Room, 1935-1936

Architect: Charles F. Cellarius, Cincinnati, OH

Construction Supervisor: A. C. Harrington, Berea, KY

Mechanical Engineering: William E. Bodenstein, Cincinnati, OH

Excavation began in February 1935

Dedication: June 1, 1936

Cost: $93,000

Begun during the year that Rogers Memorial Art Building was being completed, Cellarius’ two- story Reading Room, forty by eighty feet, was inspired by “the Old State House of Boston” and is in a Flemish bond red brick, Georgian “Colonial Style”. Like the Old State House of Boston, on which the building is based, the Reading Room is a rectangular mass whose ends are dressed with balustraded balconies supported on consoles. These end units incorporate a large Window surrounded by Doric pilasters supporting a bowed pediment that in turn rests on the building’s cornice/entablature. Cellarius used a six course limestone base, a projecting brick string course, flat brick arches at the windows, limestone Window lintels and arched fan lit second story windows with limestone keystones. The slate roof was crowned with a wood and copper-roofed square cupola.

Harold F. Bringham, Louisville Public Library, was the keynote speaker at the building’s dedication (Berea Citizen, May 28, 1936, l; BCABG, 5.39, box 3). Rather than wooden floors, the Prudential Committee chose less expensive “Tiletex” flooring, tables were constructed by Woodcraft and Windsor chairs were a gift fiorn Wallace Nutting. A series of book stacks were located on the two lower basement levels; the first floor served as a reading room and the second floor was a reserve room. Large Windows meant that the spaces were bright Welcoming spaces for study and library research. With the construction of this “wing” came the gift of the John A. Shedd Memorial Lincoln Room given by his wife to house his collection of over 500 objects: autographed first edition books, published materials, “authentic Lincoln pictures” and objects which pertained to Abraham Lincoln (correspondence from Mrs. Shedd, February 18, 1933). This collection was housed in an enclosed room on the east side of the Reading Room. Desk-service was cared for in the old stacks section (what became the link between the Carnegie Library and the addition) and a book elevator served all four floors (Berea Citizen, May 28, 19360). In 1949, the College received 1,847 volumes from the estate of Walter B. Sheppard. This collection of books and Bibles, which dated from the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries also contained over forty books on Samuel Johnson (included in this gift were a Bishop ’s Bible, 1569; Field’s Bible, 1600; Vinegar Bible, 1717; Aldine Press Dictionary, 1497).

Aerial view of Frost

Renovation, 1997-98

Architects: Ekhoff, Ochenkoski and Polk, Lexington, KY

Contractors: Frank Messer and Sons, Construction Company, Lexington, KY

Cost: $3.1 million

Rededication: October 23, 1998

 Frost Building underwent a complete renovation during the academic year, 1997-98. The interior was gutted, the stacks were removed, the atrium skylight of the Carnegie Library was restored, slate from the original roof was removed, augmented and replaced, geo-thermal air conditioning was installed and a third floor was built on top of the old two-story brick stacks to now link both buildings and all floors. A newly installed elevator on the west side makes the building handicapped accessible; stairwells were enclosed, new offices were created and state—of-the-art technology in each classroom made the building more user- friendly for the four departments (Psychology, History, Sociology, and Political Science) who use the newly designed spaces. Rooms were opened up or scaled down”( especially those of the Reading Rooms); chimneys and fireplaces were again closed and hidden behind steel-studded walls; glass block (which has no historic precedent on campus) was installed as interior walls in various areas of the Carnegie building; lounges and a small kitchen were created; and restrooms were built and made accessible on every floor. A pallete of contemporary saturated colors was used for walls and appointments, but much of the original furniture was restored and again used in classrooms and offices. The original tin and lead fabricated classical entablature and cornice were replaced by a new fiberglass copy. The building is now partially heated and cooled by a geo-thermal system whose bed encircles the building site. Externally the two connected buildings have not visually changed and remain much as they appeared after the Reading Room was added in 1936. Frank Messer and Sons Construction Company was awarded the 1998 Build Kentucky Award for innovations in construction (Berea Citizen, January 7, 1999).

Frost Building Now


[1] Citation: Boyce, Robert Piper. Building A College: An Architectural History of Berea College. Self-published. Berea, Ky: Berea College Printing Services, 2006, p34-36.

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Works Cited

Boyce, Robert Piper. Building A College: An Architectural History of Berea College. Self-published. Berea, Ky: Berea College Printing Services, 2006, p34-36.

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