“We shape our buildings, thereafter they shape us” – Winston Churchill
In 1931, the Board of Trustees named the administration building for one of its own, Livingston Johnson, who was said to be “the foremost Baptist of his generation”. While Meredith’s other buildings are essential to college life, our students and faculty are at the heart of our school, and this particular building’s significance is due not only to the people who occupy it, but also to the decisions made there–decisions that affect lives and culture of past, present, and future Meredith students.
While Meredith has built many new buildings since the dedication of Johnson Hall more than 80 years ago, this is the building that students and community members identify as the heart of Meredith College; through the years, it has remained the identifying edifice of our school. It’s the building we visit as perspective students and return to as alumnae. It’s where Valentine’s Day flowers were delivered to sweethearts in years gone by, where parents and families come to pay visits to students who need to see a familiar face from home, and where key decisions are made for the school. Like gentle soldiers, our class dolls stand guard on Johnson’s third floor to remind us of our past and present; a continuum of beauty and scholarship that grows each year.
The architecture of Johnson Hall, along with other campus structures of the same generation, is described as “an example of Beaux-Arts classicism in a Georgian vein, with its use of red brick, limestone trim, white painted exterior woodwork, and generally neoclassical vocabulary and proportions”, as stated by Dr. Mary Lynch Johnson in History of Meredith. While its classical beauty is undeniable, many of our alumnae think of it as a home away from home in many ways. Johnson Hall is where we are feel ‘at one’ with our school and with each other.
Indeed, if the walls of Johnson Hall could talk and share the history they’ve seen, they would tell us about the myriad of changes they have witnessed through the years. With each new class of graduates they have seen us grow from a small school to a well respected women’s college whose alumnae have achieved great heights of success; from education to scientific, research, medicine, law, and business. In a world of constant change, it is reassuring to know that we have the constancy of Johnson Hall to look to as a symbol of our school. The walls of Johnson Hall seem to say to us, “wherever you go in the world, always remember; I’ll be here waiting for your return”.
– Elizabeth Dove, ’84, President, Meredith College Alumnae Association