Old Main

A National Historic Landmark


Old Main includes Commencement Hall, used for concerts, convocations, lectures, dramatic presentations, special functions, dinners and other gatherings; Kirkpatrick Hall of Life Sciences, devoted to biology, microbiology and botany laboratories, a greenhouse, faculty offices, a student library and conference room, a psychology computer laboratory, an experimental psychology laboratory, an animal research laboratory, a cold room for experiments, classrooms relating to the life sciences, a classroom for environmental science, and a student psychology lounge; the Academic Parlour, used for lectures, receptions, and special gatherings; the Trustee Board Room, used for board of trustee meetings; Trustee Hall of Fame Room, used for receptions; Office of the Provost and Dean of Faculty, a suite of rooms to the left of the main entrance; Office of the President, a suite of rooms to the right of the main entrance; seminar rooms; and classrooms.

The centerpiece of the Bethany College campus, Old Main is one of America's finest examples of collegiate Gothic architecture. Built in 1858, Old Main is situated slightly north of the site of College Proper, the original college building, a stone and brick structure that burned on Dec. 10, 1857.

The first portion of the New Edifice to be completed was Society Hall, which provided for the literary societies and their libraries. It also provided for a temporary chapel. Society Hall was ready for use at the opening of the 1858 session. By the close of the 1859 school year, 150 feet of the building's frontage had been completed.

After the Civil War, action was taken to complete the second wing of the building, which was to be used as a chapel. This became known as Commencement Hall at the time of its dedication in 1871.


Commencement Hall was used as a gymnasium from 1890 to 1903. In 1903, it was converted into the Norman A. Phillips Dormitory for Men. In 1924, the hall was restored, and an auditorium capable of seating 700 people was added on the upper level. Commencement Hall was finally restored to its original form between 1982 and 1984. The second floor that had been added when it became a dormitory and later converted for use as an auditorium was removed at that time.

Society Hall, comprising the east wing, burned in 1879 and was not rebuilt until 1911-12, at which time it was renamed the Earl W. Oglebay Hall of Agriculture. It was used as classroom and laboratory space for biology, chemistry, physics, and agricultural science. It also contained the offices of the president and dean.

Restoration work on Old Main began with the exterior during the initial phase in 1976 and continued through 1984. Restoration included work on the roof and exterior, restoration of Commencement Hall, installation of Alumni Walk in front of the building, restoration of classrooms, restoration of the Academic Parlour on the second floor, and restoration of the office of the President.

A formal dedication took place on Nov. 9, 1984. The office of the dean of faculty was located in the restored rooms to the left of the front entrance in the late 1980s.


Oglebay Hall of Agriculture was restored in 1998-99 and renamed Kirkpatrick Hall of Life Sciences. It was dedicated on Oct. 21, 1999. The Gresham Garden was constructed in the lawn area in front of Old Main in 1998. Restoration of the Tower took place in 2000-01, during which the entire top of the tower was removed with a large crane. It was successfully replaced at the conclusion of the restoration.