Historic Shepherd University
"McMurran Hall Series"
Look for finished work in Winter, 2018
About Historic Shepherd University
In July, 1871, the Jefferson County seat was moved from Shepherdstown to Charles Town, freeing the old courthouse/town hall for use as an educational institution. This imposing Greek Revival structure had been erected in 1859 by Rezin Davis Shepherd, who intended it to be a town hall. According to Historic Shepherdstown, the "clock in the tower, donated to the town by Shepherd in 1842 and originally housed in the old Episcopal Church, was moved to the town hall tower in 1860. Though neglected during some periods, the clock has been maintained in recent decades and still strikes the hour." In 1872 the building became the first building of what is today Shepherd University. According to the article of incorporation signed by a handful of Shepherdstown's city fathers including Henry Shepherd, Shepherd College was to provide instruction “in languages, arts and sciences.” The first 42 students enrolled in September, 1871, under the administration of first principal Professor Joseph McMurran, for whom the building was eventually named. In 1872 the West Virginia Legislature passed an act stating “That a branch of the State Normal School be and the same is hereby established at the building known as Shepherd College, in Shepherdstown, in the county of Jefferson.”
Shepherd began granting the bachelor of arts degree in 1930, when it became a four-year college for the training of teachers, and in 1943 and 1950 respectively, was authorized to implement liberal arts programs and the bachelor of science program. Shepherd now offers baccalaureate degrees in a wide range of fields, encompassing the liberal arts, business administration, teacher education, the social and natural sciences, and other career-oriented areas. In 2014 Shepherd's undergraduate enrollment was just under 3,900, and its graduate enrollment was 286. The Campus, which consists of East Campus and West Campus, includes several historic buildings and sites, and has grown by leaps and bounds over the past two decades, now including 43 major buildings, among them the $9 million Robert C. Byrd Science and Technology Center, the $18 million addition to the Scarborough Library, which also houses the Robert C. Byrd Center for Legislative Studies, the $10 million Erma Ora Byrd nursing classroom building, and my favorite, the "Little House" pictured below, built in the late 1920's as a project to encourage children to attend summer school.
Shepherd University's dynamic presence and unique blend of the old and the new are part of what makes the Town a great place to live and learn.
sources: Historic Shepherdstown and the Shepherd University Website.
About Historic McMurran Hall
Situated on the northeast corner of German and King Streets, McMurran Hall was built in 1859 by Rezin Davis Shepherd, who intended the Greek Revival structure with a two-story-portico and Corinthian flourishes to serve as Town Hall. The building occupies Lot 1 in Shepherdstown, the very location where Davis was born in 1784. Davis, who died in 1865, made his fortune in New Orleans but maintained a residence and strong civic engagement in Shepherdstown. He had originally donated the clock in the tower to the town in 1842 (it resided in the old Episcopal Church for years); it was moved to the town hall tower in 1860. In recent decades the once neglected clock has been faithfully maintained and can still be heard today striking the hour in Shepherdstown. The wings were added to the building during the period after the Civil War when the structure functioned as the County Courthouse. In 1871, with the return of the County seat to Charles Town, the Shepherd family deeded the building to the Town. The Town Trustees leased the building to the State the next year, whereupon it became the first building of what became to be known as Shepherd College, now University. The building was named in 1927 in memory of the school's first principal, Joseph McMurran.
A Destructive Nor'easter Wreaks Havoc On The Grounds
On March 2nd, 2018, a terrific storm on the East Coast uprooted one of several stately Sugar Maples that graced the grounds of McMurran Hall. By my reckoning, the tree is the fully golden leafed specimen shown closest to the building in the picture above. Thankfully, no one was hurt, but the same could not be said for a dry laid stone retaining wall and two parked vehicles, one a truck that absorbed the brunt of the blow. The photos below show the fallen giant, which fell away from McMurran Hall into the adjacent parking lot. The cleanup by Kyle Friend (S & K Enterprises, LLC) and his crew included the removal of two other Sugar Maples that needed to come down; indeed, as I watched the proceedings on Friday afternoon and Saturday the wind was still pretty strong and I kept glancing upward nervously. A woodturner being bonked on the head as he watched a fallen tree being cut up is a shade too much irony for me. Kyle's incredible truck (it may have a name but I call it "the Grabber") was enormously entertaining to watch, and had it not been on the sad occasion of lovely trees coming down I'd have marked it as a splendid time. The last photo shows the chunks - mostly crotch pieces that promise more interesting figure than Sugar Maple sapwood, which is kind of ordinary - Kyle brought over to my place. As I write this (on the following Wednesday) I've already cut up turning blanks and rough turned several large bowls and platters. The wood is extremely wet and I've been soaked by sap for two shop days now.