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A look back at Carnall Hall

Every year the Inn at Carnall Hall hosts guests who were once residents of the building or who took classes in the building. We love to share the pictures and hear the stories of many years filled with laughter and relaxation.

At the Inn at Carnall Hall, we cherish the Inn’s vibrant history and have composed this detailed account for those who want to learn more or revisit yesteryear.

Construction

One of six buildings funded by the Arkansas Legislature in 1905, Carnall Hall was designed by renowned Arkansas architect Charles L. Thompson and was the most costly of the six. It featured a fusion of styles with its combination of Colonial Revival detail and Victorian architectural design. It was also strategically placed on the extreme northeast corner of the Campus to comply with strict separation of the sexes on college campuses, which was standard until the late 20th century.

The building was named after distinguished Associate Professor of English and Modern languages, Miss Ella Howison Carnall, the first female faculty member at the U of A. She taught from 1881-1884 until her untimely death and was recognized both for her excellence as a professor and for her example as a role model for young women. The impact that she left on the school resounds even today. Her portrait is above the mantle in the lobby.

The first 95 years

Carnall Hall was a women’s dormitory from 1906 through 1967, when it became home to the Phi Gamma Delta Fraternity house until 1977. Carnall Hall was placed on the National Register for Historic Places in December 1982, during which time it was being used by the University for offices and overflow classroom space during the extensive renovation of Old Main. Following the completion of the Old Main renovations, Carnall Hall was no longer needed for academic purposes and fell into disrepair, closing in 1991.

Rescuing history

During the 1990s, Carnall Hall was enclosed by a chain-link fence, with the University threatening to tear down the then-condemned building. Paula Marinoni led the “Save Carnall Hall” efforts to restore the building, alongside historic preservation architect and School of Architecture faculty member Cy Sutherland, and Fayetteville High School student Jonathan Storey. Other local and state preservationists urged the University administration and Board of Trustees to entertain alternate proposals to demolition, while securing grants from the National Trust for Historic Preservation for funds to stabilize the building.

Finally, in 2001, two separate public/private partnership proposals to restore Carnall Hall as an Inn and restaurant were presented to the Board of Trustees. The team of Richard Alexander and Rob Merry-Ship developers, Jim Lambeth lead architect, Miles James restaurateur, and Ted and Leslie Belden investors and historic preservationists, presented a proposal which leaned heavily on the existing footprint of the building and the unique commitment of the development team to the local community and the University of Arkansas. Their design proposal was awarded the project, and a new day for Carnall Hall began.

Restoration

In the early years, Carnall Hall was a red brick structure with white woodwork, much like its neighbor to the west, Old Main. In later years the whole building was painted white, so in an effort to remain true to both historic periods the exterior is now a “pink” tone, with a hint of the red brick showing through a thin layer of antique white paint. Water-damaged oak flooring was removed during the renovation to reveal the original pine floors, which now gleam in the downstairs lobby. The Lounge was named for Jim Lambeth, who died during the later stages of the renovation, and features one of the many restored original antique iron columns.

Recent History

A walk through the building showcases many of the historic features of the $6.9 restoration, which was completed in 2003:

  • A pair of restored twin columns made of horse hair and wood
  • Tall windows of original paned glass
  • Rock foundation walls exposed on the lower floor
  • Twin staircases leading to the second floor, and
  • Dormered windows looking out onto the Lawn of Old Main.

Since opening that fall, The Inn has been the home away-from-home for parents of U of A students and alumni of The University. Notable dignitaries and celebrities have stayed at the Inn at Carnall Hall, whose signatures are on glass panels of Ella Carnall’s photo, including Robert Redford, President Bill Clinton, and His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama.

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