Thursday, December 26, 2002

Historical Society markers to honor Wilberforce, CSU

By Allen Howard
The Cincinnati Enquirer

The oldest private institution of higher learning for African-Americans will be honored during Charter Day activities March 4 next year at Central State University.

Two permanent markers from the Ohio Historical Society will be unveiled in honor of the old Wilberforce University campus and CSU's Galloway Hall during the ceremonies.

The markers are part of 90 that will be dedicated across the state by the Ohio Bicentennial Commission's Longaberger Initiative.

In 1850, the Cincinnati Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church bought a 54-acre piece of property once known as Tawawa Springs, a health resort hotel, for $13,000 to establish a university for African-Americans.

The following year, Wilberforce University was founded.

The university failed in 1862 because of the Civil War and a decline in enrollment.

Bishop Daniel A. Payne purchased the property the following year for the African Methodist Episcopal Church. He became the first president of Wilberforce and the first African-American to lead a university.

The April 1974 tornados destroyed Galloway Hall along with much of the CSU campus.

"Galloway Hall was sort of the center of everything," said former CSU student William Spillers, a manager of Shakers Entertainment Complex in College Hill. "The old theater was there. The ROTC (Reserve Officers Training Corps) was in the basement. All of the assemblies were held in Galloway Hall. I can remember the old tower clock with the chimes. They are still there."

Many famous personalities spoke or performed in Galloway Hall. The list includes singers Leontyne Price and Nancy Wilson, former students.

Others included Robert McFerrin, first African-American lead with the New York Metropolitan Opera; actors Ruby Dee and Ossie Davis, comedian and civil rights activist Dick Gregory and musical composer-conductor Duke Ellington.

Historical markers are large cast-aluminum signs that relate aspects of Ohio's history. Basket-maker Longaberger Co. of Dresden, Ohio, funds the program.

E-mail ahoward@enquirer

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