In the early 1960s, when I was a student at the University of Georgia, Candler Hall on the north end of campus served as an overflow dormitory for freshmen students. Each year, as demand required, Candler housed either men or women. This was in that quaint era before coed dorms were invented.
Students assigned to a room in Candler had no reason to celebrate. Majestic in its time, the building had become old, tired, and down at the heel.
By contrast, UGA had just opened a series of gleaming new dormitories — modern structures of metal and glass that made older dorms like Candler seem even more like throwbacks.
Candler Hall housed male students until 1966, when the building was remodeled for the umpteenth time and converted to office space.
While doing some UGA research recently, I learned that the old place has a surprisingly rich and interesting history…
Candler Hall, constructed in 1901, was named for the Governor of Georgia at the time, Allen D. Candler. It was built to be a third men’s dormitory to ease crowding in nearby Old College and New College.
Because of the building’s general appearance, the residents of Candler referred to the dorm as “Buckingham Palace.” They called themselves the “Barons of Buckingham.”
Candler Hall stands at the north end of Herty Field, which in the old days was UGA’s athletic field. Old College, New College, and Candler Hall fielded intramural sports teams, and intense rivalries formed.
The rivalries were not friendly. All three buildings suffered regular damage as the residents launched surprise attacks and revenge attacks on the other dorms.
Fistfights, broken windows, and smashed banisters were common. Animals regularly were set loose in the buildings.
The most infamous clash came in 1926 between the freshmen of Candler Hall and the sophomores of New College.
One night, the sophomores stole a poster of actress Myrna Loy from a theater in downtown Athens and displayed it proudly above the entrance to New College. The poster was promptly stolen by the Barons and taken into Candler Hall.
Knowing an assault to retake Myrna Loy was imminent, the Candler freshmen raided a nearby construction site for materials and barricaded the entire first floor of the dorm.
The sophomores attacked, throwing rocks, assorted projectiles, and bottles filled with ammonia. In the ensuing mayhem, every window in Candler Hall was broken out. When University Chancellor Charles Snelling tried to intervene, he was doused with ammonia.
The sophomores failed to rescue Myrna Loy.
1918 was the year the University finally allowed women to enroll as full-time students. The Barons of Buckingham were outraged.
To express their displeasure, they began the practice of dumping buckets of water from the dorm’s upper floors onto female students walking below.
The practice of dousing women persisted. The student newspaper reported in 1926 that “Slickers are considered a necessity among co-eds when passing Candler Hall.”
In 1942, the U.S. Navy took over Candler briefly and used it as a pre-flight training school. The Navy moved out in late 1943, and Candler became a dorm again, this time for women students.
That year, a sailor stationed at the off-campus Naval Hospital, who had worked at Candler the previous year, began a bizarre ritual: waking up the dorm residents every morning.
Each day at 7 AM, the sailor appeared in front of Candler Hall and walked up and down, shouting to the women to wake up.
After a few days, the women answered with barrages of water, oranges, and shoes. The sailor countered by showing up on a motorcycle to make himself a moving target.
In 1910, Georgia and Alabama played a football game in Columbus, Georgia. The Crimson Tide had won every game since 1902, so, when word reached Athens that Georgia had won, the students rejoiced.
As reported in a history of Herty Field by John Stegeman, eyewitness Charley Wall described what happened:
A telegram told us of our victory and immediately put about two hundred of us boys to building a bonfire between Candler Hall and New College in the middle of the football field.
We went over the downtown area in groups of eight or ten and found flat-top drays, for hauling goods, on the side and back lots. We then piled them up with all sorts of boxes and excelsior thrown out by the merchants, and hauled it all to the pile accumulating on the field.
The last load to come was one with a wooden barrel of gasoline some of the boys had located. Someone knocked in the top, and then they started handing up buckets of gas to boys high up on the pile of goods, boxes, etc., who threw it over the pile.
The band was playing Glory to Old Georgia, with a snake dance going on around the field. An Athens boy named Michaels struck a match to set off the bonfire, and boy, that was it!
The gas-saturated air went off like gunpowder, and blew out every window pane in New College, Moore College and Candler Hall, and also some in the Beanery downhill from the field. I was in the snake dance and was bowled over but not hurt. Michaels was hospitalized for a long time.
A ghost reportedly haunts Candler Hall.
Reports say the ghost appears every four years, dragging a chain and brandishing a dagger.
On one occasion, the ghost materialized in a first floor dorm room, frightening a group of students who were playing cards.
On another occasion, a student reported passing the ghost in a stairwell. He saw nothing, but heard the sound of chains being dragged down the stairs. The student passed out in fright.
1966 was the last year Candler Hall served as a residence hall. Since that time, it has been occupied by a succession of University offices and departments.
Since 2003, Candler has been home to the Department of International Affairs. In prior years, it housed the Affirmative Action Office, the African Studies Program, the Equal Opportunity Office, the Gerontology Center, the Institute for Higher Education, the Office of International Development, and the School of Social Work.
I have my own modest tale to add to the story of Candler Hall.
When I arrived at UGA in 1960, I was assigned, like most freshmen, to Reed Hall. By my second quarter, I had met a number of students living in Candler Hall, the freshman overflow dorm, and I stopped there on occasion to see them.
One acquaintance who lived in Candler, I believe as a proctor, whose job was to keep an eye on the residents, was Richard Brooks from Griffin, Georgia.
Richard was an upperclassman, a football player, tall, trim, and athletic. He was quiet and a bit stoic, but a friendly and pleasant guy.
Richard proudly claimed to be part Cherokee, and he did, indeed, look somewhat Native American — at least, based on my understanding of the typical characteristics.
Richard had black hair, high cheekbones, a dark complexion, and (he always seemed to be lazing around shirtless) minimal body hair.
As everyone knew and could observe, however, Richard was not completely hairless. In the center of his chest — a fact to which I can attest — grew a single black hair.
Richard was very proud of his lone chest hair.
One night during Spring Quarter, while Richard slept, the inevitable happened. Someone, most likely his roommate, used tweezers to deftly pluck the hair from Richard’s chest.
According to reports, Richard awakened instantly, bellowing in rage. Shouting and cursing, he pursued his assailant out of the room, down the stairs, and across the campus into the night.
The assailant escaped. Although the roommate denied responsibility, most people believed he had done the deed. Richard suspected him, too, but was never sure.
The chest hair did not grow back.