LeConte Hall is the green roof three story building that is currently home to the University of Georgia’s history department. It houses multiple classrooms, offices, and in 2015 a student lounge was added for undergraduate history majors. Previously a chemistry building, LeConte Hall is notable not only for the history department but for its own history as well.
Backstory and Context
LeConte Hall is named after scientist Joseph LeConte (1823-1901) who gained fame during the time for his scientific views and his work as an environmentalist. LeConte was a student at the University of Georgia from 1838-1841 and later returned in 1852 as a professor. Leconte would teach there until 1856 when he left for South Carolina College due to issues with the University of Georgia’s president at the time Alonzo Church.
He would stay at South Carolina where he was chair of the Geology and Chemistry department until 1868, when he left to join the University of California at Berkeley along with his brother John. Joseph would become the first interim president of the University while also teaching physics. During his time in California, Leconte gained a national reputation both as a public and academic figure due to some of his published works on religion, evolution, and biology. Also because of these works Leconte would go on to gain membership into the American Philosophical Society and the American Academy of Sciences the latter of which he served as president of in 1892.
Meigs Hall was previously known as LeConte Hall went it opened in 1905. The current building known as Leconte Hall was finished in 1937 and cost one hundred twenty-five thousand dollars to complete. It was one of the nicest University buildings at the time but its name was still accompanied by controversy. A 1937 article in the Atlanta Journal Constitution was titled “Memory of Banished Georgia Educator Revived in new Science Building”. It details the specifics of the new building while also giving a short biography of Leconte. The author Hoyt Ware states in the article his thoughts on the name:
“The building is named for a man who never taught biology at the University, who was forced to resign his position on its faculty, and who made his scientific reputation in another part of the country in another field from that of biology.”
The building would go on to have several changes throughout its history. Switching from biology to geography/geology to now being home to the history department.
Recently LeConte hall has garnered attention for an article on its namesake and also for the large portrait of LeConte that had hung in the building entrance until it recently came down in 2018. A forum was held on April 2nd, 2019, deciding what to do with the portrait going forward.
BOARD MAKES REPORT ON STATE UNIVERSITY. (1905, Jun 18). The Atlanta Constitution (1881-1945)
Distinguished Donors dedicate new study lounge to students. history.uga.edu. . . http://history.uga.edu/news/stories/2015/distinguished-donors-dedicate-new-study-lounge-students.
LeConte Forum. history.uga.edu. . . http://history.uga.edu/events/content/2019/leconte-forum.
Osakwe, Danielle. UGA professors and students discuss keeping or removing LeConte Hall portrait with racist past. The Red & Black. April 03, 2019. Accessed April 18, 2019. https://www.redandblack.com/uganews/uga-professors-and-students-discuss-keeping-or-removing-leconte-hall/article_8a82941a-55b8-11e9-8182-ab9f47b11ccd.html.
Warma, Zachary. The Golden State’s Scientific White Supremacist. Boom California. November 05, 2018. Accessed March 24, 2019. https://boomcalifornia.com/2018/11/05/the-golden-states-scientific-white-supremacist/.