Well in Snow


The Well in the snow.
(Before the installation of the
marble drinking fountain.)
[c. 1916]

Photograph by Walter A.
Johnson 30-0571

“It’s queer the many things they tell
About our deal old college well;
No aged man could ever glean
The knowledge of things that it has seen.”

– 1921 Quips and Cranks

In the 19th Century , there were numerous wells scattered across the Davidson College Campus and the Town of Davidson. By the beginning of the 21st century, the remains of only one well was still visible; it had became known as the “Well.” Located just north-east of the Philanthropic Hall, the Well’s original structure was a wooden lattice over a bucket and windlass.

By 1898, a lack of running water was felt at the college, particularly after several visitors to the 1898 commencement caught typhoid fever. The resulting media fervor resulted in a 1898 enrollment of only twenty-four students (191 had enrolled the year before).

Davidson College President Henry Louis Smith noted that typhoid fever was common in the town of Davidson every summer, and he deduced that the town and college wells must be the cause. So, by the end of 1899 waterworks were installed at Davidson College. The water works, installed for $5,260, consisted of six artesian wells providing 60,000 gallons a day. The old infected wells were closed up, a large water tank was installed behind Chambers, pipes were run to all the college buildings and boarding houses, and bathrooms installed across campus. Soon afterwards the town began paying the college for water and sewage systems (a practice that continued 1924, when the town bought the college’s water and sewage facilities and began to maintain them).

When President Smith installed the waterworks on campus, the Well was modified into a water fountain. The class of 1916’s class gift was an improved water fountain, a pedal operated water fountain made from Italian marble (with their class motto and year engraved on the base).

The Well [1977-2002] 9-3345b

The class of 1925’s class gift was to replace the well’s wooden cover (which had been replaced several times since the original lattice work) with a brick structure designed by the architect of the new Chambers Building.

By the early 21st century, the water fountain had stopped working, but a circular brick patio with concrete benches had been added nearby. Though it is no longer functional, the Well is still a popular stop for resting, studying, or socializing.

Well – Works Cited

Beaty, Mary D. A History of Davidson College. “Building Modern Facilities.” Briarpatch P, 1988. 216-217.

Beaty, Mary D. A History of Davidson College. “The Town Takes Over Utilities.” Briarpatch P, 1988. 282-283.

Buildings, Davidson College Wells 1870’s, 1926 (fountain), 1925 Davidsoniana file. Davidson College Archives, Davidson, NC.

Shaw, Cornelia Rebekah. Davidson College. Fleming H. Revell Press, 1923. 171.

Smith, Henry Louis . “My Work At Davidson 1887-1912.” 1943. RG 2/1.10. President’s Office. Henry Louis Smith. Davidson College Archives, Davidson, NC.

“Something Old-1, New-2, 1-Well, Well, Well!” The Davidson Family. Vol. 1, Issue 2.

“The Old College Well.” Davidson College. Quips and Cranks. Davidson: Davidson College, 1921: 144.

Author: Tammy Ivins
Date: June 2008

Cite as: Ivins, Tammy. “Well” Davidson Encyclopedia June 2008 https://digitalprojects.davidson.edu/omeka/s/college-archives-davidson-encyclopedia/page/wells

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