The original Pullen Hall stood from 1902 to 1965 near Holladay Hall in a space that now holds a parking lot. Like the current Pullen Hall one mile away on Dan Allen Drive, the old building served students. Also like its successor, the old building honored NC State’s original benefactor, Richard Stanhope Pullen (who went by “Stanhope”).
The school built Pullen Hall because of a kitchen fire in Watauga Hall that also burned dormitory facilities on Nov. 19, 1901. The State Board of Agriculture in charge of the college resolved in 1902 meeting minutes to erect a separate building for the kitchens as well as “a dining hall for 500 students and [a] chapel or assembly room.” On May 15, 1902, NC State President George Winston laid the first brick for the building, according to the Asheville Citizen-Times. He told the gathered audience, “I read what you wrote about the propriety of naming [the building] ‘Pullen Memorial Hall,’ [and agreed it was] a worthy tribute to a good man…who did much for [North Carolina] and for Raleigh.”
Students primarily used Pullen Hall, although the North Carolina Farmers’ Convention, Farm Women’s Convention, State Federation of Home Bureaus, and 4-H Clubs also met in Pullen Hall from before the building was completed in 1903 until the 1950s. Because of its chapel, stage, and wide-open gym, students hosted Young Men’s Christian Association meetings, literary society debates, dances, and baseball practices there in the 1900s and 1910s, according to The Red and White. They also played school pranks in Pullen Hall to escape mandatory chapel: an alumnus from 1917 recalled his classmates released beehives, while another from the class of 1914 admitted that as sophomores, his colleagues sneaked a live bear in from the now-gone Pullen Park Zoo.
From the 1930s to the 1960s, the Technician reported that Pullen Hall was valuable to students hosting class meetings and guest speakers. Most often, the choir, band, glee club, and drama group performed there. Some of those artistic performances appear less innocent today. On Feb. 19, 1931, 30 NC State students performed what the Technician called “a campus-produced ‘ole-time black face minstrel’” show to raise money for stage equipment. The Faculty Council endorsed it, and Professor William Carraway even participated. The show was so popular, according to the Technician, that “200 would-be theater-goers were turned back at the door” and the musical lasted sixty extra minutes due to encores. Students performed again the following year. NC State was just one among many college campuses that fundraised using blackface minstrel performances in the 1930s, according to historian Rhae Lynn Barnes: shows involved few production costs because songs popular for blackface minstrelsy (like “Oh! Susanna”) had just entered the public domain, and attendance was high because predominantly-white civic institutions pushed performances as “part of the American past” amidst Great Depression-era uncertainty. The amateurs did not acknowledge that they promoted “romantic ideas about...slavery,“ according to Barnes, or that professional performers had traditionally used blackface to reassure working class audiences of their racial superiority to Black people, according to historian Eric Lott.
After 1930, student performances did not stop people from complaining about Pullen Hall. “Students during bleak wintery days call it Noah’s Ark” the Tarheel Club News reported, which the Technician explained was because of its wooden, uninsulated structure and “old and musty exterior.” By 1951, the Extension Service also called Pullen “ancient.” Even Chancellor Carey Bostian said it needed “urgent repair” in 1954, while the Visiting Committee of the Board of Trustees declared Pullen’s wooden floors and stairwells, “rightfully condemned from the standpoint of safety” in 1962.
The Committee's fears were realized on the night of Feb. 22, 1965, when Provost Banks Talley saw flames, as he told N&O, “belching from the whole side of Pullen Hall.” The building burned down, but not before two firemen and several student volunteers were injured. Two months later, the Rocky Mount Telegram reported that police charged an NC State dropout with starting the Pullen fire and seven previous, smaller fires. The culprit’s brother called him “deeply depressed” in the N&O. As he began a six-year sentence, the Charlotte Observer reported, NC State paved over Pullen’s ruins to build a parking lot, according to The Technician.
In 1989, a great, great-nephew of Pullen wrote to the Institutional History and Commemoration Committee that “since Pullen Hall had burned some years ago, he would like to see some kind of a permanent memorial at the University,” according to meeting minutes. The Board of Trustees complied and named the three-year-old Student Services Center “R. Stanhope Pullen Hall” because “the Pullen legacy is the cornerstone of our campus and warrants perpetual recognition.” From 1990 to 2020, the new Pullen Hall housed offices such as career counseling and university housing, according to The Technician. Other services, such as the counseling center, “Disability Services,” student bank, and the Office of Hispanic Student Affairs, were there at times.
Stanhope Pullen was born in Neuse, North Carolina on Sept. 18, 1822 to a “prominent planter,” according to his North Carolinian (NC) obituary. Stanhope’s family depended on forced labor: in 1840 and 1850, census workers listed him as a “merchant” living with his father, Turner Pullen. Turner enslaved twenty-four human beings in those decades, according to the 1840 Census and 1850 Slave Schedule. In 1860, census workers listed Stanhope’s occupation as a “gentleman” while he lived in the Raleigh house of his aunt, Penelope Smith. She enslaved twenty-five people in 1860, according to the Slave Schedule. During the Civil War, the obituary reported, Stanhope Pullen supplied troops while “holding a position in the office of the Quartermaster General under the late Carter H. Harrison.”
In the post-war period, historian Joe Mobley wrote, Raleigh’s population skyrocketed, and wealthy people sought big, elegant homes. Pullen grew rich developing housing in new neighborhoods to meet demand, according to North Carolinian. Pullen also assisted Raleigh entrepreneurs by investing in cotton mills. But he refused to interfere in their management as owners paid paltry wages, maintained poor working conditions, and employed child laborers (according to Mobley). Because of his investments, Pullen left behind $200,000 at his death in 1895.
Without a wife or children, Pullen devoted his fortune to civic projects. When the state bought land for its new agricultural college in 1887, Pullen feared the site provided little potential for expansion, according to N&O. So, Pullen bought the Eason Lee farm 1.5 miles west of the Capitol and divided it in half with a plow and mule, according to a 1923 Alumni News. He gave half to the city to create the park later named in his honor and offered the other half (sixty-six free acres) to the state government “for the establishment and conduct of a College of Agriculture and Mechanic Arts,” according to two land deeds. Notably, the NC State News said Pullen’s selection upset “local sharecroppers, ill-at-ease about losing the rolling farmlands.”
Nevertheless, Alumni News wrote in 1923, “commodious structures [including both Pullen Halls] are built upon land donated by a modern and unassuming man who…was an earnest believer in industrial education.”
Original Source References
1840 United States Census, Wake County, North Carolina, digital image s.v. "Turner Pullen," Ancestry.com.
1850 United States Census, St. Matthews District, Wake County, North Carolina, digital image s.v. "Turner Pullen," Ancestry.com.
1850 U.S. Federal Census - Slave Schedules, St. Matthews District, Wake County, North Carolina, digital image s.v. "Turner Pullen," Ancestry.com.
1860 United States Census, Raleigh, Wake County, North Carolina, digital image s.v. "Stanhope Pullen," Ancestry.com.
1860 U.S. Federal Census - Slave Schedules, Raleigh, Wake County, North Carolina, digital image s.v. "Penelope Smith," Ancestry.com.
American Civil War Research Database. S.v. “J. C. Pullen.”
“Auditorium Work at the A&M Begins,” Asheville Citizen-Times (Asheville, N.C.), May 15, 1902.
“Black-Face Boys First to Be Seen Here in 16 Years,” The Technician (Raleigh, N.C.). February 13, 1931.
Bostian, Carey H. to Alumni and Friends of North Carolina, November 1954. In Office of the Chancellor, Carey Hoyt Bostian Records, UA 002.001.003, Folder “Alumni Association.” Special Collections Research Center at NC State University Libraries.
Bushong, William B. “Pullen Hall,” North Carolina Architects and Builders: A Biographical Dictionary, Copyright & Digital Scholarship Center, North Carolina State University Libraries, Raleigh, NC.
“Coming Farmers’ Convention,” News and Observer (Raleigh, N.C.), July 21, 1903.
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“Good Appointment.” Weekly State Journal (Raleigh, N.C.). August 12, 1863.
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“Ex-Student Given New Fire Sentence.” Charlotte Observer (Charlotte, N.C.). August 31, 1967.
“Gift of Mr. Pullen to the State of North Carolina,” March 22, 1887. In Office of Finance and Administration, Facilities Division, Construction Services Records, UA 003.004. Box 135, Folder “Pullen Deed.” Special Collections Research Center, NC State University Libraries, Raleigh, NC.
Lynch, Bob. “Huge Fire Destroys Pullen Hall, Damages Peele Hall at N.C. State.” News and Observer (Raleigh, N.C.), February 23, 1965.
“The Militia,” Semi-Weekly Standard (Raleigh, N.C.). August 28, 1861.
Olds, Fred A. “The State’s A&M College.” Charlotte Daily Observer (Charlotte, N.C.). May 9, 1909.
“Original Pullen Gift.” 1887. In Alvin Marcus Fountain Papers. MC 0007. Box 2, Folders “Alumni Committee on Institutional History and Commemoration, Place Names, Research, Pullen Road.” Special Collections Research Center, NC State University Libraries, Raleigh, NC.
Owens, E.B. “Random Sketches of College History,” Alumni News (Raleigh, N.C.). April 1923.
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Technician (Raleigh, N.C.) (LH1.N6 T4), Special Collections Research Center at NC State University Libraries, Raleigh, NC. Accessed September 18, 2020. "NC State University Libraries’ Digital Collections: Rare and Unique Materials.
“Watauga Hall is a Mass of Ruins,” Morning Post (Raleigh, N.C.), Nov 30, 1901.
“You might as well know the truth,” Tarheel Club News (Raleigh, N.C.). August 5, 1931.
“Youth Charged in Fire Cases.” Rocky Mount Telegram (Rocky Mount, N.C.). April 4, 1965.
North Carolina State University, and University of North Carolina (1793-1962). Agromeck. Raleigh, N.C.: Student Publication Authority, North Carolina State University, 1985.
North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service, Department of 4-H Youth Development Records, UA 102.010. Special Collections Research Center at NC State University Libraries.
North Carolina College of Agriculture and Mechanic Arts, North Carolina State College, North Carolina, United States, and North Carolina Agricultural Experiment Station. Extension Farm-News. Raleigh, N.C.: Agricultural Extension Service, 1915.
North Carolina State University, Board of Trustees Meeting Minutes, UA 001.001. Special Collections Research Center NC State University Libraries .
North Carolina State University. Alumni Association Publications, UA 010.200. Special Collections Research Center at NC State University Libraries.
North Carolina State University. Office of Alumni Relations Publications, UA010.200. Special Collections Research Center at NC State University Libraries.
North Carolina College of Agriculture and Mechanical Arts. The Red & White. West Raleigh, N.C.: North Carolina College of Agriculture and Mechanical Arts, 1898.
Secondary Source References
Connolly, Nathan. (“The Faces of Racism”) Interview with Rhae Lynn Barnes. Backstory. Podcast transcript. February 8, 2019. https://www.backstoryradio.org/shows/the-faces-of-racism/
Lockmiller, David A. History of the North Carolina State College of Agriculture and Engineering of the University of North Carolina, 1889-1939. Raleigh: [Printed by Edwards & Broughton], 1939.
Lott, Eric. Love and Theft: Blackface Minstrelsy and the American Working Class. Cary: Oxford University Press, Incorporated, 2013. Accessed December 30, 2020. ProQuest Ebook Central.
Mobley, Joe A. Raleigh, North Carolina: A Brief History. Charleston, SC: The History Press, 2009.
Reagan, Alice Elizabeth. North Carolina State University, A Narrative History. Raleigh: North Carolina State University Foundation and North Carolina State University Alumni Association, 1987.