Limestone College – Gaffney, South Carolina
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Limestone College in Gaffney was established in 1845 as the first female college in South Carolina. Dr. Thomas Curtis of London, England, and his son, William, founded the school in order to provide an education to women who might not otherwise have such an opportunity.
The school, originally called Limestone Springs Female High School, opened with 67 students. During the early 1900s the school began accepting males as day students. Males were permitted as residential students in the 1960s. While the Curtises were both ordained Baptist ministers, Limestone College remains a non-denominational Christian college.
Following the Civil War, William Curtis, who served as president of the college following his father’s tragic death at sea in 1859, became financially destitute, and the school was sold at auction. Industrialist Peter Cooper of New York – the creator of the first steam locomotive in the United States and a staunch believer in egalitarian education for males and females – considered taking over the school and modeling it after the Cooper Union School in his home state, which he founded. Despite the collapse of these plans, the school continued to operate and its name was changed to Cooper-Limestone Institute in 1881. By 1898, the school was known by its now-familiar name, Limestone College.
The picture at the top of this page shows the Lighting of the Luminaries in front of Cooper Hall. This Christmas tradition has been practiced at Limestone College each year since 1984. When this picture was taken on December 4, 2010, a drizzle of rain didn’t dampen the spirits of students and citizen volunteers who lit some 10,000 candles placed in sand inside white paper bags. The luminaries, which have become a popular drive-by event, shine brightly around the college campus, along College Drive, and on several other Gaffney streets all the way to the door of Gaffney City Hall.
Ten buildings on the campus of Limestone College, including Cooper Hall, are listed in the National Register as part of the Limestone Springs Historic District:
The Limestone Springs Historic District includes ten buildings and one site associated with Limestone College and the community of Limestone Springs. The district is a significant collection of properties reflecting the history of the area in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries as a popular resort, as a center of lime production, and as a center of female education. The focal point of the district is the historic section of Limestone College campus, which contains nine buildings constructed between ca. 1837 and 1941. The buildings on the campus are oriented towards a central lawn and fountain. The buildings are classically inspired and include architectural styles such as Gothic Revival and Neo-Classical and also a meeting house form church. Also included in the district is a limestone quarry that was mined in the nineteenth and early twentieth century and a mid-nineteenth century church building. The limestone quarry is located adjacent to the historic section of the campus and the Limestone Springs Baptist Church is adjacent to the quarry.
Reflections on Limestone College
Josh Crotzer, Limestone’s Director of Communications, found this photo of Winnie Davis Hall (dated 2004) in the college’s files. Completed in 1904, the structure is named after the daughter of Confederate president Jefferson Davis. Its original purpose was to promote the study of Southern history and literature. Josh writes, “Winnie Davis Hall of History, often called the crown jewel of the Limestone College campus, is illuminated by a Cherokee County sunset. The violet glow provides a deceiving visual warmth to the 110-year old building’s exterior, a stark and ironic contrast to the cold and empty darkness that had resided inside for over 30 years. Closed to students and the public since 1976, Winnie Davis Hall is currently under renovation and upon completion will be home to a history and arts museum as well as state-of-art classrooms, all while retaining her unique and historic architecture and aesthetics.”
Limestone College Info
Address: 1115 College Drive, Gaffney, SC 29340
Limestone College Map
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