Wake Forest College Birthplace
Visitors to the Wake Forest College Birthplace on North Main Street discover a museum commemorating the school's history, and consequently the history of the town of Wake Forest.
The simple provincial house was built before 1820 and was part of a 615 acre tract bought for $2,000 by the Baptist State Convention from Dr. Calvin Jones. Dr. Jones advertised the plantation for sale in 1828 for $2,500. He knocked off $500 from the purchase price when the North Carolina Baptist State Convention became interested in the property.
The house served as home for Dr. Samuel Wait, the first president of Wake Forest Institute which was soon renamed Wake Forest College. Portraits of Dr. and Mrs. Wait hang in the living room of the Birthplace, and were given to the Society by Wake Forest University.
The Waits and their daughter lived in the home, and for the first year, students held their classes and had their meals there.
When the College Building, the first permanent structure constructed for the school, was built between 1835 and 1837, the Calvin Jones House was moved 50 yards west, and in 1842 it was moved again so Wingate Hall could be built.
Located in the present-day vicinity of the seminary cafeteria, the home served as a rooming and boarding house for students for several years. When Wake Forest College moved to Winston Salem in 1956, administrators wanted to tear down the house to build a cafeteria for the seminary. Members of the Wake Forest Garden Club led a movement to save the building and the Calvin Jones House Society, Inc., now the Wake Forest College Birthplace Society, Inc., was organized.
The home was moved to its present location, a large lot donated to the Society by Wake Forest College. Fundraising efforts and restoration work continued under the direction of Dr. Christopher Crittenden, who became President of the Society in 1962. After Dr. Crittenden's death in 1969, work on the home slowed until interest in the historic property was renewed with the 1976 Bicentennial Celebration.
After the installation of a security system, a variety of people and institutions associated with the college began donating furnishings for the house. The majority of the furniture in the house is on permanent loan from the estate of former Wake Forest College English Professor Dr. Benjamin Sledd, as long as the Birthplace remains a museum for Wake Forest College, 1834-1956.
Among the many curious memorabilia currently on display are a complete collection of the Wake Forest College year book, The Howler, a wooden blanket chest made by slave labor, and the first bell used to call students to classes.
On the second floor of the house, one room is dedicated to the Wake Forest College Law School, and another to the Medical School. The upstairs hall is lined with photos of various professors, administrators, and alumni of Wake Forest College.
The Birthplace has also started a library containing the works of authors associated with the college.
The museum is open for tours every day but Saturday and Monday. The grounds are available for concerts, weddings, and other events.
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