- Born in King and Queen County, Virginia in 1871, John G. Pollard was an attorney general and Democratic politician during the Great Depression era, who was elected as Virginia’s 51st Governor. In 1930, Governor Pollard authorized the funding of a new dining facility for the college and his contributions were honored with the naming of Pollard Hall and its use for music.[1. Edward Alvey, Jr., History of Mary Washington College 1908-1972 (Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1974), 321.] Earlier in the college’s history, Govenor Pollard vetoed the original legislation proposed that would have made the Fredericksburg Teachers College, as the university was known in 1933, into a liberal arts institution. However, in Dr. William Crawley’s history of the university, he writes that it was not a veto on principal against the idea of a women’s liberal arts college, but an economic response to the Great Depression.[2. William B. Crawley Jr., University of Mary Washington: A Centennial History, 1908-2008 (Fredericksburg, VA: University of Mary Washington Foundation, 2008), 40.] Outside of his involvement with the college, Govenor Pollard was responsible for establishing The Virginia Museum of Fine Arts,[3. “John G. Pollard (1871-1937),” in “The Governors of Virginia,”
http://www.virginia.gov/redesign2000/virginia/govs/pollard.html.] and also as an educator as professor of constitutional law and history at the College of William and Mary.[4. “Governor John Garland Pollard,” Encyclopedia Virginia, http://www.encyclopediavirginia.org/media_player?mets_filename=evm00000819mets.xml.]
Originally named Julius Garbaldi Melchers, Gari Melchers was born in 1860 and raised in Detroit. A world renowned artist, Mr. Melchers was especially known for his paintings concerning Dutch culture. He was financially successful painting portraits for notable American families, such as the Vanderbilts, Mellons, and Roosevelts. In 1916, he moved to Fredericksburg and bought a house along the river named Belmont with his wife, Corrine. Upon Gari’s death in 1932, his wife pursued her own artistic interests, including charitable donations to the arts. She served as a trustee of the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts. In an effort to increase her husband’s reputation posthumously, she organized their former estate of Belmont into a museum for his art and life, which the university now oversees.[5. Crawley, 227.]
- At the time of the founding of DuPont Hall, Jessie Ball DuPont was the closest living relative to Mary Ball Washington, mother of George Washington and the namesake of Mary Washington College. Born into a prestigious, if impoverished, family, which included Civil War General Robert E. Lee, Ms. Ball attended what is now known as Longwood University.[6. “Who Was Jessie Dew Ball duPont?” Stratford Hall.http://www.stratfordhall.org/learn/jessieball_library/jessieball.php.] She was raised in Northumberland County, Virginia from her birth in 1884. Ms. Ball became a teacher until she married her husband, Alfred DuPont, a wealthy man of equally superb breeding. After his death, Mrs. DuPont funded several scholarships and donated gifts to many southeastern colleges, creating the Jessie Ball duPont Fund to also donate to “churches of all denominations, major charities, children’s homes, historic buildings and art museums.”[7. “Our History,” Jessie Ball DuPont Fund, http://www.dupontfund.org/about/history/.]
Building History: Pollard, Melchers, and DuPont Hall
Constructed in 1951, Pollard and Melchers Hall are mirror images of each other that flank DuPont Hall, which houses Klein Theatre (named for Albert R. Klein, instructor of dramatic arts in 1952) and the black-box theatre, Studio 115.[8. “Klein Theatre,” University of Mary Washington’s Department of Theater and Dance website, http://cas.umw.edu/theatre/prospective-students/department-online-tour/klein-theatre.] DuPont Hall also hosted the school’s radio broadcast studio until 1969.[9. Crawley, 254.] In the 1990s, the Fine Arts Complex underwent some much-needed renovations, with outdated heating, plumbing, and electrical systems, and no air conditioning or handicap accessibility. One student reportedly called it, “the most awful building on campus” and another descriptively referred to it as “a rat hole.”[10. Crawley, 379.] Since then, the Fine Arts Complex has hosted frequent theatre productions, with at least four major productions each year, and numerous art shows for students and outside artists. Today the Complex is home to the Departments of Art and Art History, Music, and Theatre, along with Klein Theatre and art galleries.