History of the Houghton Memorial Library

1854 - 1988

Eric Kidwell and Charlotte Redemann, Huntingdon College

Huntingdon College, originally located in Tuskegee, received its charter on February 2, 1854, under the name of Tuskegee Female College. This Methodist school was created partly in response to the establishment in Tuskegee of the East Alabama Female College, an institution of the Baptist denomination (Ellison, History of Huntingdon College: 1854-1954).


Mention of the college library is found as early as September 1857 in William F. Samford's, General Agent of the College, fund-raising circular. This circular states that the funds sought were needed for, among other uses, "...to extend our library" (Ellison, p. 23). At the 1874 meeting of the alumnae association, a committee was appointed "...to select books suitable for founding a library" (Ellison, p. 86). Despite these references to the incipient I library, it can be inferred that the library existed strictly on an informal basis into the turn of the century. At that time, the "...library was confined to the separate collections of the two literary societies, Currer Bell and Ad Astra, each of which elected a member to be a librarian and to check books in and out of the society room every Saturday" (Ellison, p. 121). The total collection numbered about 1,200 volumes, and in 1902, it was consolidated and moved into the study hall. Dr. John Massey, president of the college from 1876-1909, made his private library accessible to the students as a supplement to this collection.

By December 1901, a fund-raising campaign to collect money for library and laboratory building had been organized. It had been hoped that construction would be begun by May 1902, but at that time only $2,000 had been raised, leading the college to intensify its fundraising endeavor; some $300 of this amount had been a contribution from Booker T. Washington and his associates. A portion of the money - collected was eventually used to increase the library holdings, but a separate library building was never constructed at Tuskegee. This lack of the support needed to provide for a library building was a contributing factor to Dr. Massey's decision that the college should be moved from Tuskegee (Ellison, p. 123).

By the end of the 1908-1909 academic year, the decision had been made to move the college (by this time called the Alabama Conference Female College) to Montgomery. With the move from Tuskegee to Montgomery, ,Montgomery, the college was renamed the Woman's College of Alabama. Flowers Hall, the first building of the Montgomery campus, was not completed in time for the start of the 1909-1910 academic year. To provide for the college's first year in Montgomery, Hamner Hall, located on Clayton Street, was rented to temporarily house the college. On the night of August 24, 1909, the same date that the library, the official college records, its furniture, pianos, and laboratory equipment were to be moved into Hamner Hall, a fire destroyed the building and all its contents. As a result, students were transferred for the school year 1909-1910 to Sullins College, which was then a two-year college for women located in Bristol, Virginia, and in the fall of 1910, the college moved into the still unfinished Flowers Hall.

With the construction of Pratt l fall providing dormitory facilities separate from the Flowers Hall building, the library was moved in 1912 into the east wing of the first floor of Flowers Hall. This was the area described in the college catalogs of the time as "...a large hall of 78 by 40 feet ...easily accessible from all lecture rooms ...lighted by gothic windows of unusual beauty and size, attractively furnished and comfortably equipped, the library is an inviting place for serious study and a quiet retreat for the casual reader."

Given that the library books had been destroyed in the Hamner Hall fire of 1909, the composition and extent of the library at this time is of some interest. As the 1911 edition of Bells and Pomegranates, the college annual, lists an M. L. Spencer as librarian, with "assistant librarians to be supplied," it can be assumed that the library did exist in some form before its establishment in Flowers Hall. Unfortunately, its location and composition during this period between the time of the Hamner Hall fire and the occupation of Flowers Hall remain unknown.


In 1912, the alumnae began to raise funds for a library building to be named in honor of Dr. Massey. By May 1916, the alumnae association was still collecting funds for this proposed library building as well as collecting books for the library. However, by the spring of 1916, President Mifflin Wyatt Swartz and the Trustees of the college had decided that a new dormitory should have precedence over a library building, and, as a result, Massey Hall was constructed as a residence hall in 1917.

During the 1920's, a project of expansion and improvement was undertaken by President Walter D. Agnew in part to maintain the college's A-grade rating with the Board of Education of the Methodist Episcopal Church and in part to gain accreditation by the Southern Association of Colleges and Secondary Schools. One aspect of this general policy of improvement was a plan for a library building.

At the 1923 commencement meeting of the Board of Trustees, Harry S. Houghton and Robert G. Arrington, as representatives of the heirs of Mitchell Bennett Houghton, offered $70,000 for the construction of a library to be named the Houghton Memorial Library. M. B. Houghton had been a member of the Board of Trustees and treasurer of the college from 1909 until his death in 1925. According to Frances Jackson Pickett, librarian at the time of the construction of the Houghton Memorial Library, "Mr. Houghton ...in his will left his estate to be continued as a horticultural experiment and if the family did not wish to carry out his wishes it was to be offered to Huntingdon College. The family compromised by giving the library in his memory..." (Transcription of a speech given to the Alabama Library Association, 1954 or 1955).

Ms. Pickett's words may be startlingly familiar to any librarian who has participated in the planning of a library building, as she states "...I had to argue about so many things... I did get the sloping magazine shelves, but did not succeed in cutting out the fire places... I sometime would need the space... But I was thankful for all I did get."

The Houghton Memorial Library was dedicated on April 23, 1930 At the time of its dedication, according to the souvenir program from the dedication of the library, the museum of the Alabama Anthropological Society occupied the second floor of the south wing. The exhibits included a collection on loan from Walter B. Jones, the State Geologist. There se items were transferred from the library to the State Archives in the 1960's or early 1970's (Interview of Dr. Glenn Massengale, director of the library, by Mrs. Mary Ann Pickard, October 1988). Relics of the alumnae dating to 1855 were shown in one section of the museum area. The souvenir program for the dedication of Houghton Memorial Library states that "it is the plan of the Alumnae Association of Woman's College to add to the collection of relics and to thus preserve the history of the college." This collection of relics most likely was the nucleus of the items housed today in the Huntingdon Room. The second floor of the north wing featured an art gallery, exhibiting water colors, crayon drawings, oil portraits, and china painting, all being the work of students.


Frances Jackson Pickett could be called Huntingdon College's first professional librarian. A graduate of the library training school of Carnegie Library, Atlanta, Georgia, she became the librarian at Huntingdon in 1923. Her first two weeks at Huntingdon might be described as a prototypical librarian's nightmare. Two weeks before the start of classes, she discovered that all the books had been removed from the shelves so that the library walls could be painted. Upon attempting to restore order, she discovered that no shelflist existed and that not all the books were cataloged. Nevertheless, Ms. Pickett stayed at Huntingdon for 21 years until 1944.


During the next thirty years, the library collection continued to grow. It is estimated that, from 1938 to 1954, the library holdings were tripled (Ellison, p. 260). It was this expansion of the holdings which prompted the transfer of the museum materials from the library to the State Archives as a means of making more space within the Houghton Memorial Library building available. Eventually, many duplicate copies of books and back runs of periodicals were moved into the building's two attics. It became increasingly apparent that the collection had outgrown the Houghton Memorial Library building.

The first documented evidence that a library expansion was under consideration is the open memorandum dated February 27,1968, from then director of the library, Dr. Glenn Massengale. In the memorandum he stated that "'in the spring of 1964 the president of the college asked the director of the library to provide tentative suggestions about enlarging the library." The basic needs of an enlargement were considered to be additional reading and shelving space, adequate work and office space for library personnel, additional restroom facilities and lounge, and an elevator. Two options for enlargement were considered: (1) two wings on the back of the existing building which would provide 6,500 square are feet of space or (2) one large wing on the southeast back of the existing building providing 7,500 square feet of space. But, reminiscent of the delays in constructing a college library facility at the turn of the century, the library expansion continued in a state of uncertainty throughout the next two decades.

In 1970-1971, the college applied for a $515,000 grant from the Office of Education of the United States Department of Health, Education, and Welfare. The plans for a library addition by this time had grown to 16,398 square feet of assignable space at a cost of $606,195. The difference between this cost and the amount of the grant request was to be made up from institutional funds. A completion date for construction was set at June 1,1972 (Grant application form, no month, 1970-71). However, no evidence exists that the HEW grant was ever awarded, so plans for a library addition remained only on the drawing board.

As time proceeded, the urgency of the need for expansion continued to escalate as did the likely cost of any expansion. A 1975 report - by the he Library Committee, which was part of a campus wide long-range plan recommended that the improvement and expansion of the library take top priority and include placement of the Department of Education within the library addition. The estimated cost was now set at $800 000.

On January 17, 1978, Dr. Massengale sent a letter to the college president inquiring about reconsideration of a previous plan to use a mobile home unit as a means of increasing space for the library. Dr. Massengale proposed relocating the staff work area into this unit, thereby reclaiming a portion of the library for reading and study space. He felt that the mobile home could be "tied with an entrance to the present building with a minimum of construction and be put into shape for our use at a minimum cost." The proposal was not approved, and the college continued to search for funding sources.

The year 1979 saw the inauguration of the 125th Anniversary Fund, a ten year fund-raising campaign for Huntingdon College. Chaired by Montgomery-based entrepreneur Mr. Jim Wilson, Jr., the campaign's goal was established at $13,250,000 with a five year goal of $6,000,000. By March 1980, $2,000,000 had been pledged or received. Of this amount, $125,000 was designated to go toward the construction of a library addition called "The Learning Resources Center" which would emphasize multimedia resources and feature a 120-150 seat auditorium. Dr. Massengale felt that "a multi-media learning resources center can greatly enhance the quality and prestige of our educational program..." ("Recommendations for Learning Resources Center for Huntingdon College in Light of Experiences at Stephens College Educational Media Institute for Administrators," undated). By now, the expansion of the library had been reduced to 13,700 square feet of space, but the expense had increased to $921,750, including furnishings and an adjacent parking lot.

During this same period, Huntingdon applied for a $300,000 grant from the Kresge Foundation, and this grant, combined with the $ 125,000 from the 125th Anniversary Fund plus an additional $496,750 in pledges that this campaign was expected to yield by December 1980, would finally provide the college with the needed financing to begin construction (Grant Application to the Kresge Foundation, March 20, 1980). A target date of May 1, 1981, was established for beginning construction, and a completion date was set for the day exactly one full year thereafter.

The Kresge Foundation grant request was reduced to a $100,000 "challenge grant" at a later date. Huntingdon believed that this could be used as a means of challenging the college alumni to raise the remaining $200,000 and complete the funding by December 1980.

In 1984, the name "Learning Resources Center" had been dropped along with the emphasis on multimedia. The library addition was renamed the Dixon-Roland Wing to reflect the gift made in honor of Catherine Dixon Roland, Huntingdon alumna and trustee, and her mother Thelma Dixon. Projected cost had once again risen, this time to $1,072,625, which included an endowment for books and maintenance; the scheduled ground-breaking had once again been postponed for a year. The college was now looking at May 1982 as the time for beginning construction.

Throughout the next five years, one postponement followed another. By 1987, the college was looking toward the 1989 visitation by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools for reaccred- itation. It was feared that further postponement of the addition could jeopardize reaccreditation efforts, since after the 1979 SACS visit, the college was mandated to submit annually a progress report on library construction until the project was completed Therefore, in the fall of 1986, the Board of Trustees of the college announced that the construction of the Charles and Thelma Dixon Wing of the Houghton Memorial Library would begin on or before September 30,1987. However, all the delays and tribulations for the library were not quite over.


One of the most publicized controversies to occur at Huntingdon the George Wallace Gallery proposal of 1987. The gallery was to be a museum within part of the new library addition and was planned primarily as a means of raising needed funds for the Dixon Wing. The concept of a museum in honor of Governor George C. Wallace and his late wife, the former Governor Lurleen Burns Wallace, was first presented in January 1987 to George Wallace, Jr., a Huntingdon alumnus. The controversy arose after an article appeared in the February 1,1987, issue of The Birmingham News, which reported on the proposal as viewed by George Wallace, Jr. The article appeared before any formal announcement had been made to the college community and caught most of the campus by surprise.

The original concept was to establish a "Wallace Room" in the Dixon Wing, but after a Huntingdon delegation (which included Dr. Jackson, Mrs. Catherine Dixon Roland, Jim Wilson, Jr., and Dr. Willard Top, academic dean) toured the Jimmy Carter Presidential Center in Atlanta, the Wallace Room became a "gallery" which would depict the Wallace years through graphical displays and documentary films. Preliminary plans were drawn showing how the Wallace Gallery would be integrated into the library. The first set of plans was deemed unfeasible for library operations by the faculty and staff because the gallery would comprise the first floor of the new building; the library addition would be composed of modular units on the second floor and be left with 1,700 square feet of space less than the pre-Wallace Gallery plans had shown.

Campus opposition soon mounted after the February 1st newspaper article. Students began circulating petitions which were to be presented to the college's alumni organization, and the Black Student Union held a question-and-answer forum during Black History Month to address the issue. At the forum, members of the college administration were present to respond to concerns. President Jackson reiterated his views that the museum concept was not political but historical and educational in nature. One suggestion made during this session was that the museum be re-evaluated to spotlight the civil rights movement, which would include the Wallace years (The Huntingdon Gargoyle, April 23, 1987).

It was apparent that opposition focused on three viewpoints: (1) George Wallace's early background as a segregationist, (2) the inappropriateness of any museum on the Huntingdon campus, and (3) the detrimental effect a public museum would have on library operations. (Plans for the gallery included a theatre, atrium, and availability of the facility to tourists and school children.)

Concern also existed over funding for the project. Conflicting reports were presented as to how funding would be handled. One stated that the gallery would enhance fund-raising efforts for the Dixon Wing, yet the minutes of the library committee meeting from March 3, 1987 report that money for the two projects would be raised separately.

A story in the March 5, 1987, Alabama Journal reported on the March 4 special faculty meeting in which the faculty voted 27 to 7 to oppose the Wallace Gallery. Since the president was unable to attend, another meeting was held on March 16 where Dr. Jackson presented his support of the concept. Afterwards, a lengthy discussion occurred, and the library faculty expressed their concerns. Again a vote was taken which resulted in a 23 to 3 opposition with two abstentions (The Gargoyle, April 23, 1987):

The Huntingdon College Board of Trustees met soon after this last meeting of the faculty and decided to appoint a committee composed of administrators, faculty, students, trustees, alumni, and other interested parties. This group was to be charged with studying the Wallace Gallery concept and to report findings at a later date (Alabama Journal, March 20, 1987).

On May 6, a story in The Montgomery Advertiser reported that the Board had voted to cancel plans for the museum and proceed with the scheduled construction of the Dixon Wing. Lack of funding and the findings of the appointed committee were cited as the primary reasons for the decision. No evidence has been found that a study committee with the composition as reported in the March 20th issue of the Alabama Journal was ever established.


Finally, ground-breaking for the Charles and Thelma Dixon Wing took place on September 11, 1987, as part of the annual Presidential Convocation. A model of the new wing and the existing structure, constructed by architects of the firm of Narrows, Brown, Parsons, and Associates, was unveiled during the ceremonies by Catherine Dixon Roland and Thelma Dixon. In December, the construction bid was arced to Andrew and Dawson, Inc., with a final completion date set :or 1989.

When completed, the Dixon Wing will add approximately 17,000 square feet of space to the library and will feature an atrium with skylight; faculty and staff offices, workroom, and lounge; the much needed stack space; and a specially designated area for archives and special collections.

In the summer of 1987, Mr. Eric A. Kidwell, director of the library, consulted with Mr. Dennis Sears, chair of the art department, about the possibility of using the unfinished basement of the Dixon Wing for a new art gallery. The current art facility, a very dilapidated structure, had grown to be inadequate. The new basement, because of its isolated location, would not be usable for library operations, at least in the foreseeable future. Mr. Kidwell and Mr. Sears met with representatives of the architectural firm, and at the time of this writing, the concept is still under consideration.


One of the unique features of the Houghton Memorial Library is its function as a depository for records of the Alabama-West Florida Conference of the United Methodist Church. This function began in August 1976 when the records collected by the Reverend Franklin Shakelford Moseley, as historian of the conference, were moved from Reverend Moseley's home in Eutaw, Alabama, to the library. Mary Ann Pickard currently serves as Archivist, having started as assistant to Dr. Massengale in 1976. Dr. Massengale, director of the library at the time of the transfer, had served as archivist until 1984.

The depository contains records such as the bishops' and other officers' records, records of the annual conferences, records of individual congregations, and records of administrative agencies of the church. At the 198X Annual Conference, Methodist records housed at the Alabama Department of Archives and History were formally transferred to the depository, conditioned upon the completion of the new depository to be located in the Dixon Wing of the Houghton Memorial Library. As of this writing, the depository will not be able to accept these records because of the insufficient funding for the depository (specifically, for the compact shelving needed to provide for the great volume of the records).


The first impression the Houghton Memorial Library makes on a person is its architectural beauty. Built in the gothic style, it commands one's attention with its large, front cathedral window, exterior limes stone trim, interior vaulted ceiling, balcony, and extensive finished v. woodwork. Inside, the library possesses several notable artworks, including an exceptional painting of the Madonna and Child and a portrait by Sir Joshua Reynolds. The Madonna and Child is the work of a follower of Spinello Aretino and dates from the 14th century. It was presented to the college by Samuel H. Kress of the Kress Foundation in hopes that it would "give as much pleasure and satisfaction to the people of Montgomery and vicinity as it gives this foundation to present it" (letter by Samuel H. Kress and papers of authenticity dated September ?.9, 1936). The Sir Joshua Reynolds portrait, titled "Lady Harland,"," has a somewhat misty past in regard to its authenticity. It was donated to the college prior to Christmas 1945 by Mr. E. R. Malone, then president of Florida National Bank of Pensacola, who purchased the painting from a representative of the Arthur V. Newton Galleries of New York (Undated letter from Carlton Palmer). The portrait was given in memory of Laura Ellsbury Malone, Montgomery Sebastian Malone, and "all good mothers" (The Huntingdon Huntress, January 16, 1946).

The question of authenticity arose when, in 1978, Huntingdon attempted to gather information for an appraisal on the painting with the intention of possibly selling it. Though several letters exist concerning his investigation, there is no available evidence that the question of authenticity has ever been authoritatively settled.


In the college catalogs and annuals from the time of the move to the Montgomery campus, the librarians have been listed alternately as officers of the administration (or other terms designating an administrative function) or as faculty, and often as both. For example, the annual of 1911 lists M. L. Spencer, librarian, under the heading "other officers," whereas the 1912 edition lists Cornelia A. Hixon,, librarian, as "faculty." Fletcher S. Roberts, the only librarian to receive the status of Librarian Emeritus at Huntingdon, is listed in the College catalogs from 1965 5 to 1972 under both "executives and other officers" and "faculty," . whereas Flora Reese, hired in 1972 at the time of Ms. Roberts' departure, is listed from 1972 to 1975 under "administrative assistants," and then from 1976 to the present Ms. Reese is listed in the catalog as "faculty." Ms. Reese states that she has served as a member of the faculty since the time of her employment (Interview of Flora Reese, October 1988).

In the fall of 1978, Dr. Massengale, the director of the library, undertook to define the status of the librarians. Currently, the professional librarians are accorded faculty status but not faculty rank with responsibilities and rights being a mixture of those applicable to faculty and those pertaining to administrative staff. Review of the librarians' status is now being undertaken by Eric A. Kidwell, current director of the library, in an attempt to clarify further the standing of the professional librarians and to reflect more accurately the function of the professional librarians in an academic setting.


The Patrons of the Library, the Houghton Memorial Library's friends organization, was conceptualized during the summer of 1972 by Dr. Glenn Massengale, then director of the library, Dr. Allen K. Jackson, Huntingdon president, and Mr. Guy Younger man and Mr. J. Allen Reynolds, friends of the college. The purpose of the organization was to "give support and bring added enrichment to the resources and facilities of the Houghton Memorial Library" (Patrons of the Library Annual Report 1974-75 and Cumulative Report 1972-75).

The first chairmen of the organization were Mr. Youngerman and Mr. Reynolds, and by the end of the first year of operation, the Patrons of the library was comprised of 54 founding members, 35 patrons, and 2 life members. During its early years of existence, the Patrons of the Library operated with what could be termed an "Executive Board," which included both the organization chairman and the chairmen of special projects, special events, and memberships. However, sometime prior to 1982, this organizational structure was dissolved, and the director of the library assumed all other responsibilities not performed by the organization chairman.

Throughout the years since 1972, the Patrons of the Library have been responsible for great contributions to the library, both in collec- tions and in physical enhancement. For example, in 1973-74, air-conditioning was installed on the second floor of the building, in the multi-tier stack level, and in the attics. Also, wall-to-wall carpeting was placed on the first floor, and the library purchased its first outside bookdrop.. In 1974-75, the now air-conditioned attics were installed , with shelving to accommodate approximately 9,000 duplicate volumes from the collection.

The first Patrons of the Library dinner was held on the evening of - November 14, 1973, and began whet was to become a traditional means of paying tribute to the generous support provided by the organization. he organization of the event by library personnel, specially prepared menus and noteworthy guest speakers (Scottie Fitzgerald Smith, Clyde Edgerton, Kathryn Tucker Windham, Ferrol Sams, and Virginia Van der Veer Hamilton) have made the annual dinner one of the highlights of the academic year.

In the fall of 1982, The Book Report was first issued as a biannual publication for the patrons organization. This newsletter has been and . or tinues to be used as a means of keeping members apprised of the state of the library and significant additions to its collection. By June of 1987, the Patrons of the Library had grown to 111 households and had generated approximately $250,000 in income for the Library.


With the expansion of the Patrons of the Library and the construction of the Charles and Thelma Dixon Wing, this is a time of anticipation for the library faculty and staff. It is hoped that in the years to come, the Houghton Memorial Library will continue to increase in its contributions to the educational mission of Huntingdon College.