Highland History: Fayerweather Hall
by Jacki Stump
If you were to visit colleges such as Amherst College, the University of Rhode Island, the University of Virginia, Columbia University and Williams College, you would find that each of them also have a building named Fayerweather Hall. Each of these colleges plus fifteen other colleges benefited from an uneducated millionaire named Daniel B. Fayerweather.
Daniel B. Fayerweather, also a benefactor to Maryville College, was born in Stepney, Connecticut in 1822. His father died young leaving the family with little income. Fayerweather was “bound out” to a farm in Connecticut where he worked as a farmhand until he was able to support himself. Fayerweather never received much of an education but had great business sense and amassed a great deal of money later in life. Because he had never had much of an education, he felt it was his duty to enable others to further their education. Frank W. Norcross, in his book “A History of the New York Swamp,” states that Daniel B. Fayerweather left “nearly all his great fortune of about $6,000,000 to different colleges.” Norcross goes on to say that it was the “largest sum of money ever given to education in this country by a single individual.”
After his death in November 1890 his will was contested and tied up in litigation for fourteen years. In his will he left the sum of $100,000 to Maryville College but during the time of litigation, this amount grew to over $216,000. According to the book “A Century of Maryville History,” This money was used to build Fayerweather Science Hall, the Fayerweather Annex which was attached to Anderson Hall, and was also used to help fund additions to the college physical plant and some the money was put into a permanent endowment fund.
Fayerweather Hall originally housed science and mathematics classrooms, laboratories and offices. The building was two stories high, but in 1913 the roof was raised and a third floor was added which housed the Home Economics department. This was made possible by an anonymous endowment of $14,000 for the construction and equipment.
Over time, Sutton Hall was built to take over the science and mathematics departments and the Home Economics department was found to be too much of an expense for both the college and for students so it was shut down. Fayerweather Hall eventually became the home of the student center and extensive renovations were completed on the third floor in 1997 and 1998.
Sadly, one week after the 1999 commencement ceremony, Fayerweather Hall was struck by lightning and the building burned for two hours before the fire could be brought under control. According to the “Maryville College Special Report,” it took an estimated one million gallons of water and almost 100 firefighters from Maryville and surrounding areas to contain the fire.
The second and third floors which contained offices for student development, student publications and the Student Government Association were a total loss, but the first floor, which housed Isaacs, the post office, the bookstore and fitness center, suffered only smoke and water damage.
The Board of Directors met with structural engineers, and it was determined that the foundation had been weakened by water damage. The building was torn completely down and a new building that matched the styles of other historic buildings was constructed in 2001.
Today’s Fayerweather Hall is home to the President and Vice President of the college as well as other administrative officials and all of the administrative offices such as financial aid, the business and admissions offices. Also housed in Fayerweather are Lawson Auditorium, the IT department, communications and the Maryville College archives.
Fayerweather is another of Maryville College’s historically fascinating buildings. From the controversial will of Daniel B. Fayerweather in 1890 to the building that stands here today, it is steeped in long-standing tradition and memories.