From Special Collections and Archives: Fire Insurance Surveys

Three important items that give a snapshot of the physical layout of the College during the Depression are the 1932, 1938, and 1941 fire insurance surveys. As many local historians know, fire and property insurance records often provide details and information about communities and structures that are not easily located in other resources, and this is true of the R-MC insurance documents.

1938 Insurance Values for Several R-MC Buildings.
1938 Insurance Values for Several R-MC Buildings.

In addition to the value of each structure, the descriptions and details on the buildings include information that varies with each structure: the type of construction and materials used; the function of the building and in some cases, changes since the last insurance assessment; building layout and room use; the physical condition of the building; the building’s location; and who occupied the structure.

While the 1932 insurance inventory is brief and primarily lists buildings, values, and points out safety problems that should be resolved (don’t store cleaning supplies under wooden staircases!), the 1938 and 1941 inventories include much more information as well as photographs, which in some cases are the only visual representations we have of some structures such as storage buildings, garages, and yes, the corn crib, stables, and chicken houses!

Stable and Corn Crib on R-MC Campus, 1938
Stable and Corn Crib on R-MC Campus, 1938

The 1938 inventory indicates that the building designated as Cottage #7 “…was formerly a dormitory and lunch room but is now not used except one room on first floor which is occupied by one of the students who sells ice cream to other students on the campus.”   Also, one of the garages since the 1932 inventory “…has been enlarged to accommodate a school bus….”  The Gymnasium Building (Crenshaw) was used “solely as a Gymnasium, except for occasional school dances.”  Washington-Franklin Hall, now home to the History Department, was the Administrative Building. The Washington Room and the Franklin Room on the first floor were used by the College’s two literary societies while the second floor housed all of the administrative offices, the college book store, and the Y.M.C.A. rooms. The Y.M.C.A., the Young Men’s Christian Association, was one of the largest student organizations.

Washington Franklin Hall, 1938
Washington Franklin Hall, 1938

One of the fun things to notice in the insurance photos is the cars parked right by the buildings. During that time period, students and faculty just drove up to the buildings and parked,  whether there were drives and parking areas or not. There were so few cars on campus that parking was very convenient!

These inventories provide a great overview of the campus and add to our understanding of how it has evolved over time.

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