The groundbreaking ceremony for Furman Universityís current campus occurred in October 1953, after relatively short deliberations concerning the move. After all, only six years earlier the Board of Trustees had asked a sub-committee to look into the future of Furmanís downtown campus. Only three months passed before the sub-committee, led by President John Plyler, decided unanimously to have one united campus in an undetermined location. They scouted five different sites but never seriously considered any other than the Duncan Chapel Road site. All it took was a trip to the spot where the Cherrydale Alumni House now sits to make the committee fall in love with the property. Two other plausible locations were south of Greenville on the Golden Strip and on Grove Road where Greenville Memorial Hospital now stands. In order to raise money for this new campus in a short period of time, Furman leaders needed to be resourceful. After World War II, many Americans were willing to make donations with the money they had saved up during the war. This generosity allowed Furmanís new campus to become a reality. Furmanís leaders also appealed to people making small fortunes such as the Charles Daniel family for donations. The Baptist Convention offered 3.5 million for the project over a ten year span. The university bought over one thousand acres of land in order to keep five hundred acres for the campus and sell off the rest for residential development as the land value increased.
The new campus was built in a rather unorthodox manner. The first structure on the property was a greenhouse. Many trees and shrubs were planted before any buildings went up. Plyler and his wife, Beatrice, had recently visited England and therefore had the idea of gardens and landscaping fresh in their minds. They had also visited Versailles with its many beautiful fountains. Why not bring the beauty of fountains to the new campus? Of course the most important body of water that arrived at Furman was not a fountain. It was the lake, created by damming a creek on the property. After the lake was formed and the farmland contoured to fit the buildings, construction began. The architectural firm of Perry, Shaw and Hepburn, Kehoe and Dean oversaw the construction of the red Virginia brick buildings. They had previously worked on buildings in Colonial Williamsburg.
Students must have struggled during the early years of the new campus. The first group of men to live on campus lived in Manly, ate breakfast in a partially-constructed Furman Hall, and took buses to the old campus for more meals and afternoon classes. This arrangement did not last long. A two year period began where no students lived on the new campus due to the impracticality of going back and forth every day. Then in 1958, men and senior women came to live on the new campus. By this time, there were enough menís dorms to allow the women to live in Manly. In order to make the space more feminine, the women planted flowers in the urinals. Finally by 1961, the womenís dorms on the other side of campus became available, and all of the student population could be united at last on the new site.
Reid, Alfred. Furman University: Toward A New Identity 1925-1975. Durham: Duke University Press, 1976.
Furman Magazine, Summer 2003, p. 17 (picture)
Plyler, John, Jr. Personal Interview. 24 July 2001. (from Furman University Archives and Special Collections)
Microfilm: Board of Trustees of Furman University, 1941-1947 (from Furman University Archives and Special Collections)
Old School CLP during Founder's Week 2004 presented by Dr. Huff and Keith Plyler