The Arkansas Traveler [University of Arkansas]
28 October 2015
When the state government decided to build a college in Fayetteville in the late 19th century, the Board of Trustees toured several Midwestern schools to find inspiration for the UofA’s first building, said journalism professor Larry Foley, who wrote a documentary about the history of the UofA entitled “Beacon of Hope.”
As a result, Old Main is an almost exact copy of a building formerly at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Foley said. However, there is one glaring difference between the two buildings: Illinois’s version features the taller clock tower on the right, and the shorter bell tower on the left.
Here at Arkansas, the towers are reversed, so the north tower of Old Main is taller than the south tower, said Charlie Alison, the executive editor of news and editorial communications for University Relations.
This would be easy to dismiss as a simple miscommunication, but a rumor mill sprang up instead.
The most popular theory was closely linked to the Civil War, which had ended a decade before Old Main’s completion.
“The legend grew up,” Foley said, “that this was a carpetbagger scheme to make sure that the north tower is taller than the south tower, to let everybody remember from eternity that the north had won the war.”
This tale turned out to be false, Alison said. After much digging, former UA Division of Information employee Don Schaefer found the specific Board of Trustees meeting minutes in which the tower switch was made.
They did it so that the clock tower would be easily visible from the downtown square, Alison said.
Admittedly, the truth is a little boring compared to the legend. After all, here in the South it’s always more fun to blame the Yankees. […]