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Davis College's historic restoration

Photo: Davis College in the 1920s
Reprinted from InterCom (pdf); Story updated and posted Feb. 5, 2015

By Lauren Burner, senior public relations major

Davis College, home of the School of Library and Information Science, has undergone major changes to its exterior. The historic restoration of the building included repairs to cracks in plaster work on the entrances and columns, scraping and repainting white sections on the building exterior and repairs of small accent components on the exterior.

The Davis College Stabilization and Exterior Renovation Project, which started last summer, had its completion date pushed back due to problems with the underground piping network that runs through Gibbes Green adjacent to Davis. "Stabilization" in the project refers to some strengthening and leveling of the columns and "restoration" involves replacement of missing architrave and pediment components, repainting and sealing of pediment horizontal cornice joints and removing rust and water stains from the exterior.

The School of Library and Information Science faculty in Davis College think that the restoration has done a great job of preserving the past and looking toward the future at the same time. 

"Davis College has kept its authenticity without compromising its usefulness to the current needs of the students, faculty and staff," said Nonie Price, the continuing education and alumni coordinator for SLIS. Price has been in Davis College since her undergraduate days as an English student when the Department of English was located in Davis College. "Thank goodness the university sees the importance of keeping the legacy of the old along with the challenge of the new."

At 105 years old, Davis College is one of the oldest buildings at the University of South Carolina. Its age and proximity to the Horseshoe and the original university library, McKissick Museum, give it a charm that not many other buildings on campus have.

"It has a good feel. It's a good place to be," said Dr. Samantha Hastings, director of the school. "Before all the construction, I would walk from my parking place and come up the ramp back here and just get this sense of joy. It's just opening the doors and coming into that beautiful hallway every morning and it's like 'Oh boy, what's today going to bring?'" 

The project identified the cause of rust and paint peelings and the cause of hydrostatic pressure on the column bases of the building. Rust and old paint were scraped from the horizontal cornice and then all broken and bent sections were repaired and sealed.

We are creating a family atmosphere here within the walls of Davis College. Nonie Price

The top of the building had 15 small pieces missing from the exterior fascia. The new pieces were printed out of resin and added to the current pieces to fully complete the project.

The process for repainting the columns was more extensive. The first effort to remove the lead paint was unsuccessful, and the paint layers had to be chipped by hand from each column. The foundations of the columns were then restored, the cracks were filled in and the surfaces were smoothed over. The back of the building received some restorative work, as well, which included various weight bearing issues.

Until 1968, Davis College was the home of the Department of English. The building has also been a facility for the departments of economics, math, modern languages and psychology. It was one of the several buildings designed by the university architect Charles C. Wilson. The building was named for Robert Means Davis, class of 1872, who was a professor of history and political economy. 

Major internal changes to the building, including HVAC, wiring fixes, sprinkler systems and new ceiling tiles, were completed two years ago.

Both current and former library and Information science students value and understand the significance of the historic restoration of Davis College. Faculty and staff are devoted to the building and know that when students graduate from the school, they will soon be back to relive and remember their experiences while in the school and in the building.

"It is their home away from home," said Price. "We are creating a family atmosphere here within the walls of Davis College. The support and friendliness is evident the minute one comes into the building." 

Challenge the conventional. Create the exceptional. No Limits.