Thinking About 'The Cunninghams'

Published 12:03 pm Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Editor, The Herald:

At approximately 9:03 a.m. on Monday, November 10, The Cunninghams at Longwood University felt the first blow from the “wrecking ball.” The “plant dismantler” being used is actually much more efficient than a wrecking ball, but it will still take months to completely level the three buildings. So there is still time to pay your respects and perhaps take a photo.

Cunningham North was built in 1928. It was named in honor of John A. Cunningham (1845-1897; CSA), principal of the State Female Normal School from 1886 until his untimely death in 1897. Cunningham South was added in 1939, on the 100th Anniversary of the school. After Cunningham Main was added in 1957, the mega-dorm became known as “The Cunninghams.”

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“Ivy Hill,” the old 1850 Venable home, was demolished to make way for Cunningham Main. The State Normal School for Women (now Longwood) bought this antebellum house from the Venable Estate in 1922 and used it for faculty housing until 1956. Longwood explored the possibility of moving Ivy Hill, but the 1900 addition made it too big to move at a reasonable cost, so it was demolished in March 1957 to make way for an expansion of Cunningham dormitory. Dr. John W. Molnar (1909-1994), Longwood professor of music, was one of the last occupants of Ivy Hill. The Molnar Recital Hall was named in his honor.

For the three decades, from 1928 to 1957, the growth of The Cunninghams was a perfect measure of the growth of the school. Thousands of alumni have called it home, my sister, Beverly Gaskins Vincent (LC 1960), included. Before long The Cunninghams will be gone, replaced by a new student center.

The names for what we now call Longwood University evolved as follows: Farmville Female Seminary (1839); Farmville Female College (1860); State Female Normal School (1884); State Normal School for Women (1914); State Teachers College (1924); Longwood College (1949); and Longwood University (2002).

Dr. Ray A. Gaskins