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Ah, Well I Remember

Cranford Hall

April 23, 1891 - The first wing of the Normal School building, Cranford Hall, opens. The schedule consists of five classes (ranging from preparatory to senior) from 8:30 a.m.-12:40 p.m. and study hours from 3-5 p.m. and again from 7-9 p.m. The library closes shortly after noon. Photo courtesy of UNC Archives

November 28, 2016

Cranford Hall

It’s OK to admit this now, because it’s been 44 years, and the statute of limitations on theft has surely run out.

I took a brick from Cranford Hall.

It was a souvenir, and nobody said I couldn’t take it, and I wanted something that was part of the oldest building on UNC’s campus. So, after they’d reduced the building to rubble, I went in and found the brick and took it. Nobody stopped me.

Cranford has quite a history. Construction began in 1890 (but wouldn’t be completed for 12 years), making it the first building on campus. It was named for J.P. Cranford and his wife, who donated the land for the college. The cornerstone was also a time capsule, which contained the newspapers of the day, letters from various leaders and some mementoes.

In March 1949, a man identified as a “student arsonist” set fire to the east wing, destroying it. The same student set fire to Bru-Inn a few days later. He was arrested and sentenced to prison. In 1971, the building was again set afire, this time by student protestors, marching against President Nixon sending American troops into Cambodia.

My wife remembers Cranford smelled of formaldehyde, which is not a good smell. It was because they once held science classes and had labs on the third floor.

Also, the building had no air conditioning, of course, so in the summer months, the third floor would get fairly warm — over 100 degrees. Staying awake during classes — especially after lunch — became a problem for all of us.

By 1971 Cranford was deemed unsafe and vacated, and in 1972, crowds gathered to watch and say goodbye as the building was torn down.

I only recently learned that when they scheduled “Cranny’s” demolition, the university planned to sell the bricks. But when they began the destruction, the bricks crumbled into dust. They decided they couldn’t save any to sell.

Except they missed one.

–Mike Peters ’68

NOTE: The four large wooden globes that sat at the end of the staircases in Cranford disappeared when the building was destroyed. We haven’t been able to locate them on campus or find anyone who knows what happened to them. If you know, please contact us.