Philologian Chandelier comes home during Homecoming
The restored antique chandelier that had previously hung in Old Main, the school’s administration building destroyed by fire in 1923, adorns the Elon campus once again.
It was a fitting homecoming of sorts. After being away from the Elon campus for more than 100 years, the restored Philologian Society Hall Chandelier was welcomed back home during an Oct. 22 dedication ceremony as part of Homecoming weekend.
It was the completion of a journey that began in 2008, one that took the persistence and knowledge of historian and former Elon band member Raymond Beck ’75. With the help of University Historian George Troxler and his wife, retired Elon history professor Carole Troxler, the chandelier was traced back to Fair Grove Methodist Church in rural Whynot, N.C. Elon University purchased the chandelier from the Whynot Memorial Association and had it restored with the support from Beck and wife Deborah.
During the dedication ceremony in the Elon Belk Library Archives Room, where the chandelier now hangs, President Leo M. Lambert praised the Becks’ thoughtful philanthropic support throughout the years. Speaking of their latest gift to purchase and restore the chandelier, Lambert said it was one of the most important moments in all of the homecomings Elon has ever had. “They are not only generous, but they bring a splendid measure of thoughtfulness to their giving, which is extraordinary,” Lambert said.
Beck, a retired North Carolina state capitol historian and site manager, said he saw the project as an opportunity to reconnect his class with “Elon’s earliest years and its greater history.” He went on to say that to his knowledge, his class didn’t have a specific recognition on campus nor had it made a general class gift at graduation, and asked that the chandelier be dedicated in honor and memory of all members of Elon College Class of 1975.
“Light has always played an essential role in Elon’s history,” he said alluding to the meaning of Elon’s motto, Numen Lumen, Latin words for “spiritual light” and “intellectual light.” “May the divine light that created this terrestrial light, spread its light of knowledge and truth over this and all future generations of Elon students.”
George Troxler shared with those who attended the dedication ceremony a bit of the history behind the chandelier’s journey. Beck first found a mention of the Philologian Society Hall Chandelier, named for one of three literary societies on campus, while researching the history of the band in the university’s archives in the late summer of 2008. He immediately contacted Troxler, though it would take several years before the two could dedicate time to research some more due to their busy schedules.
When they delved into the research two years ago, they were able to determine that the antique chandelier that in the early 1900s had hung in Old Main, the school’s administration building that was destroyed by fire in 1923, had been acquired by Charles B. Auman and given to his church in Whynot in 1906 or 1907. Elon built a central power plant in 1906, bringing electricity to the campus. Though Auman had attended Elon in 1900-01, his sister was a student during that time, which is how he likely found out the college’s oil burning lighting fixtures would no longer be needed. “Rural North Carolina did not have electricity in 1906,” Troxler said. “Auman had an opportunity to get an attractive chandelier for his church.”
While Fair Grove is no longer an active congregation, the building and cemetery are well cared for by the Whynot Memorial Association. After having two experts in 19th century interiors agree the two chandeliers were the same model—eight-lamp Bradley and Hubbard Model #613—Beck and Troxler had no doubt these were one and the same. The Becks not only purchased the chandelier but also replaced it in the Fair Grove Church with a restored six-arm Bradley and Hubbard Model #613.
Restored by Jefferson Art Lighting in Ann Arbor, Michigan, the Philologian Hall Chandelier was refinished according to the original paint scheme and upgraded with reproductions of the original hand-blown opalescent shades, glass chimneys, shade holders, perforated central draft burners and hand-spun brass oil fonts. New LED bulbs cast a light similar to what the chandelier would have produced when it burned kerosene.
“If members of the 1901 Philologian Society were here today, they would not recognize the campus, but they would know their chandelier,” Troxler said. “It is our link with them and a wonderful reminder of the values and heritage that we share at Elon.”
The chandelier was the third collaboration between Beck and Troxler, who met at Elon when Beck was pursuing a degree in history. Troxler also served as Beck’s academic adviser. In the past, the two have worked together in bringing two other iconic artifacts back to campus: the “Old Main” Bell that is now in the Rotunda of Alamance and the Graham College Bell, the only surviving antebellum North Carolina Railway locomotive bell, that is now on display in the Archives Room.
“I can say that our former teacher-student relationship has grown all the richer with each successive project,” Beck said.