Averett University Unveils State Historical Highway Marker to Commemorate Iconic Main Hall Building

Posted on September 18th, 2017 by Cassie Jones

Averett University unveiled its new state historical marker issued by the Virginia Department of Historic Resources. At a ceremony in front of the university’s Main Hall, a large crowd gathered to hear remarks from college and city leaders.

“Today marks a special occasion for Averett as we honor its legacy by unveiling our new historical marker for this beautiful, stately, iconic Main Hall,” said Averett University President Dr. Tiffany M. Franks. “Constructed in 1910, this building has been home to more than 5,000 students over the past 100-plus years, and, this is why we’re reinvesting in assets like this building.”

In 1907, the then-Roanoke Institute purchased a 15-acre tract on West Main Street from the Mountain View Land Company for $5,500 for the purpose of moving the campus away from the crowded downtown business area where the college originally operated on Patton Street. Construction of Main Hall was the first of many construction projects to come and was meaningful to the university’s trajectory.

“This building has been a fixture of Danville’s landscape for more than a century,” said Danville Mayor John B. Gilstrap. “The City of Danville is so proud of our Hometown University, and this is yet another occasion in which we can share together in commemorating and celebrating a special connection to the past. This City’s history is so rich, and Averett is an integral part of that.”

Earlier this year, Averett announced a multi-phased, 10-year, $28 million campaign to raise funds to renovate existing residence halls and future expansions on its Main Campus in Danville. The first public phase, the “Campaign for Main,” kicked off in April after an anonymous $2.5 million signature investment. This phase is an effort to raise another $2 million over 12 months to begin renovations to Main Hall in the summer of 2018.

Renee Burton, senior planner for the City of Danville, read remarks from the Virginia Department of Historic Resources, providing the history of Virginia’s highway marker program. It began in 1927 with the installation of the first historical markers along U.S. Route 1, and is considered the oldest such program in the nation. Currently there are more than 2,500 official state markers, most maintained by the Virginia Department of Transportation, as well as by local partners in jurisdictions outside of VDOT’s authority such as Danville.

The Averett University marker was approved for manufacture and installation earlier this year by the Virginia Board of Historic Resources, which is authorized to designate new historical markers. The sign’s manufacturing cost is covered by the marker’s sponsor, Averett University.

Text of marker:

Averett University

The Virginia General Assembly chartered Union Female College, forerunner of Averett University, in 1859. Supported by the Concord, Dan River, and Roanoke Baptist Associations, the school offered preparatory and collegiate instruction to young women. Classes were held in downtown Danville until 1911, when Main Hall, a Neo-Classical Revival-style building, opened here on a new 15-acre campus. At the request of alumnae, the school was renamed in 1917 for the Averett family, eight of whose members served as trustees, presidents, principals, and professors. Averett later became a co-educational, four-year university combining the liberal arts and sciences with professional programs.

Department of Historic Resources, 2017