Richland County SC Cultural Resources Inventory Listing
Allen University Historic District
1530 Harden St. Columbia SC 29204
Historic District: Allen University Historic District

Description: Allen University, established by the AME church following the Civil War, was probably the first founded and operated by African Americans in South Carolina. It helped to fill the pressing need for African American education in S.C. The overall campus historic district contains four major buildings, ranging in date from 1891-1941, that are situated around the campus green. These buildings include Arnett Hall, Coppin Hall, and the Chappelle Administration Building and were all added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1975 as part of the Allen University Campus nomination.

Historic Information
Year Built: 1888 Acres: 44
# Buildings: 5
Architect: Unknown
Historic Register: Yes Year: 1975 NR#: 75001705
National Historic Landmark: No

Local Historic Designation:

Year Designated:

Period of Significance: 1881-1949
Cultural or Historic Significance: African-American Influence
Historical Topics: Education, College, Black History, African-American, Religion, Civil War, Post-Bellum, African-American Education, A.M.E Church, Arnett Hall, Coppin Hall, Chappelle Administration Building, Right Reverend Benjamin W. Arnett, Reverend John C. Smart
Historical Overview:
Founded in 1881 by the African Methodist Episcopal Church, and subsequently influenced by the denomination's emphasis on education and a trained clergy, Allen University was one of several universities established by the A.M.E. Church in the South following the Civil War. While many schools and universities for African Americans were founded during the post-bellum period, Allen University was more than likely the first university founded and operated by African Americans in South Carolina.

The University, named for Richard Allen, founder of the A.M.E Church in the South, opened four years after the University of South Carolina closed its doors to African Americans, thus helping to fill the pressing need for African-American education in South Carolina. The University purchased its first property in Columbia in 1881 and the first major building was erected and in use on the present site in 1888. The cornerstone of Allen University’s oldest remaining structure, Arnett Hall, was laid in 1891.

Today, three other buildings Coppin Hall, Chappelle Administration Building, and Flipper Library, all of which range in date from 1891 to 1941, make up the historic campus green, whose red brick and white columned architecture and classical symmetry and detailing is typical of American universities of that era. The buildings were added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1975 as a part of the Allen University Campus nomination.

Situated on a four-acre campus within Columbia’s Waverly neighborhood the school educated future black religious leaders and also was among the first to offer law degrees to African Americans. Even though Allen University became affiliated with religious and legal studies, during the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, following the curriculum structure exemplified by the Tuskegee Institute, Allen’s curriculum had an industrial and agricultural emphasis. Although the school was founded primarily to provide an educated clergy for the AME Church, Allen was also among the few southern colleges for blacks that boasted a law department, a program that lasted until the early 1900's.

The school has been associated with a number of influential members of South Carolina society. For example, Daniel Augustus Straker, one of the most successful black lawyers in the state in the 1880's, became a teacher at Allen University in 1882. An early graduate of Allen, E. J. Sawyer, founded the Bennettsville, SC, PeeDee Educator, one of the strongest black-owned newspapers in S.C., in 1879. William David Chappelle, a graduate and later president of Allen, established the A.M.E. Printing House in Nashville, Tennessee.

Arnett Hall:
Arnett Hall, named for the Right Reverend Benjamin W. Arnett, who was President of the Allen Board of Trustees, was begun in 1891 and is subsequently the oldest building on the campus today. It was not yet completed in 1896 when it was first used as the Ladies Industrial Hall. Allen University states that the fifty-room building was completed by 1905. The building served as a women's dormitory, classrooms, and later a men's dormitory and industrial building. The exterior appears to be largely unchanged since its construction. The three-story, brick building has a basement and a hipped roof with projecting center gables on each elevation.

Coppin Hall:
The cornerstone of Coppin Hall was laid in 1906 by builder Reverend John C. Smart of Winnsboro, who was also a traveling minister of the A.M.E Church. It was completed in 1907 for a price of $22,000. The red brick building is four stories tall with a mansard roof, and a flat portico supported by four Grecian columns across the front. The first floor at one time housed an office, a library, and a recreation area. On the second floor was a chapel that could hold 700 people, while the third and fourth floors were used as girl's dormitories.

The Chappelle Administration Building was under construction by at least 1922 and completed by 1925 for $165,000. The building remains largely as first designed with the basement containing a kitchen and a dining hall, print shop, and mail room. An assembly hall and offices are located on the first floor, while the second and third floors are used as classrooms. It is a large, three-story brick building with fourteen bays on each floor of the front façade and five gabled dormers across the hipped roof. Other details of the building include keystones about the first and second floor windows and a portico with balustraes and arches.

Flipper Library:
The Joseph Simon Flipper Library, named after a prominent A.M.E bishop, was erected in 1941. It contains a lecture hall, browsing room, the offices of the librarians, and approximately 54,000 books. The basement of the library was renovated in the 1960s and now contains a Reading Library, Material Laboratory, and Learning Resource Center.

The two story Library is made of stone and has a hipped roof. The second level has three arched windows on each side of a projecting gabled entrance. Circular stairs lead to the entrance of the building.
Architectural Overview:
Architecture of Allen University is typical of many university buildings in the U.S., characterized by red brick and white columns, with classical symmetry and detailing.
Thematic Resource: Resources Associated with Segregation in Columbia, SC 1880-1960 (MPS048)
Primary Historic Use / Function: : College, Educational Related Housing
Secondary Historic Use / Function: Education
Present Uses / Functions: Educational Occupancy: Occupied
Contact Organization:
Space Available: No Commercial Office Residential
Source: National Register of Historic Places Inventory Nomination Form; SC Department of Archives and History (digital images), Historic Columbia Foundation
Printable Photo Gallery
Richland County SC Cultural Resources Inventory
Richland County Conservation Commission

Columbia, South Carolina