Endangered - Harrelson Hall - DEMOLISHED May 2016

Harrelson Hall, NCSU (Raleigh, N.C.) Photographer: Funkhouser, Edward T. Edward T. Funkhouser Photographs, 2001-2008 (MC00336)

Harrelson Hall, NCSU (Raleigh, N.C.)
Photographer: Funkhouser, Edward T.
Edward T. Funkhouser Photographs, 2001-2008 (MC00336)

NC State University c. 1961

Tucked away in the middle of the North Carolina State University campus sits a now unloved building that the University is considering demolishing. Located at the "Brickyard" in the center of North Campus, Harrelson Hall is an iconic mid-century modern, circular, three story classroom building constructed in 1961. Its round shape provided unique advantages and challenges in its use. 

Harrelson Hall is the first cylindrical classroom structure ever built on a university campus. It has a 206 foot diameter, and provides an unusual focal point for the university plaza--a brick-paved courtyard reminiscent of St. Mark's Square in Venice. Halls and faculty offices are located on the rim, while lecture rooms are along the inner part of the building. The structure is honored with the name of John William Harrelson (1885-1955), the first alumnus to serve NC State as chief administrator.

Harrelson, a mechanical engineering student, demonstrated his leadership skills as president of the senior class, president of the Mechanical Society, captain of the student military unit, class historian, business manager of the Agromeck, and valedictorian of the class of 1907. He paid his expenses by pressing the clothes of fellow classmates, working nights for 12 cents an hour, and turning out the campus lights each night at 11 pm. By 1933, Harrelson had become full professor and head of the Department of Mathematics. From 1934-1953, Harrelson was dean of administration and chancellor, taking a leave of absence to serve as a Colonel in WWI, and Deputy Chief of specialized training in WWII. Harrelson, known as "Colonel" by students and faculty, became college archivist when he retired. He left a $100,000 donation to NC State for art purchases and a lecture series. [3]

The larger classrooms featured "stadium seating", the floor slopes down toward the front of the class to make it easier to see and the rooms are also pie shaped with all the seats facing toward the central chalkboard. Students have complained that the fixed seating is "very hard to sleep in." However, the unique shape of the rooms proved difficult at first when design aesthetic was considered over functionality - the interior wall holding the chalkboards are convex. Originally curved chalkboards were installed making visibility of the sides of the boards difficult in some seats. The curved boards were later replaced with flat ones eliminating the problem. 1

Rather than fixing mechanical and basic usability issues and/or re-purposing the building, it is now planned for demolition. Modern ADA requirements on a 50+ year old building are being used as a reason why the building cannot be saved.  [4]

Oak City PA recognizes the significance of this unique building and hopes that NC State University will reconsider their plans and save Harrelson Hall from the wreaking ball. There have been many beautiful buildings already lost on the campus in the name of "progress."

1. NC State University website: http://www4.ncsu.edu/~njrose/Special/Tidbits/HarrelsonHall.html

2. Aerial Photo; NCSU Library: http://d.lib.ncsu.edu/collections/catalog/0007476
3. NCSU Library: http://d.lib.ncsu.edu/collections/catalog/0228133
4. Harrelson Hall Renovation and Replacement Study, Draft 2003