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Old West

Old East's twin, Old West, was built nearly thirty years after the opening of the University, when it became the third dormitory on campus. In 1818, University Trustees instructed the Building Committee to develop plans for a new dormitory. Plans for the "Second Wing" were presented, and in May 1822 University Trustees authorized the building committee to borrow up to $20,000 to begin construction. The Building Committee contracted with Captain William Nichols, the architect who remodeled the old capitol in Raleigh, to design the new dormitory. The cornerstone for Old West was laid on July 24, 1822, and Old West was occupied by July 1823. It is not possible to say exactly how much Captain Nichols was paid for his work, but the Treasurer's records show that he received a number of payments—including one for $26,587.57—for work on several University buildings.

A mere four years later, however, Old West was considered "dilapidated," and repairs were made. In 1842, a new tin roof was installed. When the gifted architect A. J. Davis came to North Carolina in 1844, the University Trustees secured him to lengthen the building by a third. The results were spacious new rooms for the Dialectic Society hall and library and large north-facing windows, which Davis called "eyes," sided by graceful brick panels. The renovations were completed in 1848 and that year, the Dialectic Society moved out of South Building and into the lengthened portion of Old West. The Society remained there for twelve years until it moved into its permanent home, New West.

Around the middle of the nineteenth century, five-foot high, sand-covered terraces were built around Old East and Old West. These were likely the work of John Loader or Thomas Paxton, the two landscape gardeners who served the University from the late 1840s to 1858. The terraces remained in place until the early 1890s. The Philanthropic and Dialectic societies fined members who sat or walked on them.

In 1871, the University closed and did not reopen until 1875. After standing empty for over four years, Old West was in need of repairs. Among other problems, the building seemed to have been the temporary home for some livestock: "the lower rooms in the South end were open, and the passage defiled by the ordure [sic] of cattle and horses" (Battle 1974, 2:54). The damage was estimated at approximately $500, and repairs were made prior to the University's reopening.

Works Consulted: Alcott, John V., The Campus at Chapel Hill: Two Hundred Years of Architecture, Chapel Hill, NC: The Chapel Hill Historical Society, 1986; Battle, Kemp P., History of the University of North Carolina, Spartanburg, SC: The Reprint Company, 1974; Henderson, Archibald, The Campus of the First State University, Chapel Hill, NC: The University of North Carolina Press, 1949; Records of the Vice Chancellor for Business and Finance #40095, University Archives, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.