One of the oldest structures on campus is being renovated to become home base for Belmont’s 26,000 alumni. Construction began in December to turn the former Plant Operations facility into Belmont’s Alumni House, which should open by August.
“The significance of this building is as symbolic as it is physical as it has something that every generation of alumni can remember and can identify with,” said Vice President of University Advancement Bo Thomas. “We hope this first-ever space specifically created for alumni conveys a message to all alumni how important they are and how much we want to stay engaged and connected with them.”
Throughout the years, the building served as a faculty meeting space, theater and employee housing, according to University archives and first-hand accounts. It was the original home of the Communications Arts department in 1985, and the main foyer served as the first video studio with faculty offices upstairs.
It began as Ward-Belmont’s Clubhouse No. 10 during the early 20th century when 10 clubhouses lined campus in the former Club Village, which is now home to the Curb Event Center, Beaman Student Life Center and Gabhart Student Center. Each club house hosted Ward-Belmont social clubs for resident students and was used for meetings, meals for special occasions, teas and dances and housing visiting alumni. Membership of all Ward-Belmont students was required in the clubs, which competed in intramural athletic competitions, academically and for citizenship awards.
“Each (clubhouse) has a spacious living room with large open fireplace, a music room, a game room, balcony and kitchenette and is fully equipped for all student activities and club entertaining,” according to the 1937 Ward-Belmont yearbook. “Thus in Club Village one finds all the best features of sorority life without any of its undesirable aspects.”
Clubhouse No. 10 was home to the Friendly Fifty Club, known as F.F. Club. During its height, 50 women belonged to the club, whose colors were purple and lavender. As their numbers dwindled, F.F. changed to stand for Friendship and Fidelity.
“It is such an appropriate place because it ties into the history of Ward-Belmont, the predecessor of the University. (Senior Director of Alumni Relations) Debbie Coppinger has thought since she first came 8 years ago that this space would be ideal for the focus of alumni relations because of its central location and historic significance,” Thomas said.
The original fireplace, banister and beams remain in Clubhouse No. 10 and will be integrated into its restoration.
The renovated house will serve as the home for the Office of Alumni Relations, a gathering space for groups of 40 to 50 people as well as a place for alumni dating back to the University’s former Ward-Belmont days to reunite and reminisce about their college days. It also will be the archive for some Ward-Belmont, Belmont College and Belmont University yearbooks, which live in the Lila D. Bunch Library.
With the tremendous growth of the University, even recently alumni have had trouble connecting when they return to campus to find new buildings, said Coppinger. Some alumni do not know how to find the Office of Alumni Relations, currently located on the first floor of Fidelity Hall, she added. The new alumni house is centrally located near the iconic Bell Tower with easy access to the bookstore and buildings where concerts and basketball games are held.
“I’ve been very supportive because we’ve never had an alumni house that people could easily refer to. The alumni house and the Bell Tower will be the two most energizing things for alumni, and it is important to have visible significance so that students are always apart of campus and the University,” Coppinger said.
Architects and construction crews are assessing the total cost of the renovation and creating the floor plan for the alumni house. Eager alumni already have gifted and pledged $200,000 to the project, Coppinger said.
Click here for more information on the future home for alumni.