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The Legend of the Bricks

February 5th, 2021
By: Brian Brunner, c/o 1964

Let me say that a lot of the statements in this story are from stories I have heard over the years. So it may not be historically accurate, thus it is a legend.

The building was known as Goodwin Hall, Old Brick, Russell Hall, and CQ. The new and current headquarters building was built on the same site as Russell Hall in 1986, and some of the funds for the new building came from the Russell Foundation. Because of that, the old plaque from Russell Hall was placed on the new building. The plaque reads, “Robert A. Russell Hall – September 1960”. The old building became Russell Hall after the 1960 remodeling paid for by the Russell Foundation.

Back in 1909 when the building was built, there was no Home Depot to go get the building supplies. The faculty, staff, and students (with little outside advice) cut the trees and processed the logs into boards at the school’s own sawmill. The bricks were made on the spot, also. They did not notice that something was wrong with the bricks until after they had already built more than one and a half stories of the walls. Those bricks had not been left in the kiln long enough or maybe the temperature of the kiln was not high enough. Those first bricks were not hard enough and they became brittle and easy to crumble.

Dr. Ward called on his friend, Booker T. Washington, down at Tuskegee Institute to come and tell him what they had done wrong. He came up and showed Dr. Ward and the students how to properly kiln the bricks. So they finished the second and third floor with the good bricks. I guess they just could not afford to start over.

All this would have worked fine if the bricks had just been an outside layer as the veneer jobs they do today. But in that day and age, the bricks were part of the main structure of the building. By the early 1980’s, this building had been remodeled at least three times. The last time was to put on a new roof and the dormer windows were removed from the third floor. The old dormitory rooms were used only for storage by then.

The last time I saw Russell Hall was in 1985, and it had a crack running all the way up the back that was at least three inches wide at the base. The whole building seemed to be falling down under its own weight and the cost of rebuilding it would have been more than building a new HQ building. The old building was demolished in December of 1985.

But to the last, the old building showed it was not about to fall down by itself. They brought in a wrecking ball to make short work of the old landmark. “Easier said than done” was the theme song of what happened next. They swung the ball back and hit the wall with a loud bang… but all that happened was the ball stopped and the wall remained standing. It was as if all the students who helped build it and later lived there were saying, “just one minute please…not without a fight!” That was when they had to bring in a bulldozer and attack the building from the ground up. A job that everyone thought would take fifteen minutes, took an hour.

Today, you will notice around the campus that there are bricks inlaid into a circle and an X in the front porches of the former Dixon Chapel (*note: the original Dixon Chapel burned down in the fall of 2006 after being struck by lightening) and the current HQ building. The bricks at the chapel came from the foundation of Dr. Ward’s house, “The Haunted House”. The bricks in front of HQ are from Russell Hall.

The circle represents the promise of a quarter that the school was started on and the X stands for the red X on the state flag of Alabama. The bricks around the General T.L. Futch monument on the Futch Parade Field came from Russell Hall where General Futch’s office was located during his tenure.

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