Founded in 1856, Mars Hill University is the oldest surviving educational institution of higher education on its original site in western North Carolina. The original campus of Mars Hill consisted of four acres donated by Edward Carter, which lay in front of you. As the institution continued to grow and expand over the years, the Historic Quadrangle remained the heart of campus. During the spring of 1989, Professor of History Dr. Harley Jolley worked tirelessly with senior history majors to research the buildings located on the grounds. In 1995; following the recommendation of Dr. Jolley, Richard Dillingham, and state historic preservation officials; Mars Hill College President Dr. Fred Bentley’s support of the Historic Quads placement on North Carolina’s Study List for possible listing on the National Register of Historic Places.
In the late 1990’s, President Dr. Max Lennon made the decision to continue working towards recognizing campus for its historical significance. Architectural and landscape historian Davyd Foard Hood was hired to research the campus while Richard Dillingham would serve as a history consultant for the project. Through his research, Mr. Hood recommended that the Mars Hill College Historic District include all sites fifty years or older. Thus, the institutional period for the Mars Hill College Historic District became 1856-1955. The proposed historic district would cover twenty-seven of the one hundred eighty-seven acres that make up Mars Hill’s campus and would consist of nineteen contributing sites.
Around this same time, Mars Hill College applied for funds from the Getty Trust in hopes of evolving a preservation plan for the historic buildings on the Historic Quad. The Getty Trust awarded Mars Hill College a total of $125,000 in anticipation that the campus would be designated a historic district. During the campus sesquicentennial celebration, President Dr. Dan Lunsford adopted the Mars Hill College Historic District project.Through the work of a variety of individuals both on and off campus, the Mars Hill College Historic District was placed on the National Register of Historic Places on September 12, 2006. As of 2017, the Mars Hill College Historic District is amongst the largest educational historic districts in North Carolina.