Historic marker #2101 in Whitley County recounts the history of Gillespie Hall on the University of the Cumberlands’ campus. Prior to 2005, the University of the Cumberlands was called Cumberland College.
Originally built in 1893, Gillespie Hall became the second building on the school’s campus. The structure was originally named Johnson Hall. This building was named for William James Johnson the first principle of the Williamsburg Institute, the initial name of the University of the Cumberlands. Despite the fact that the upper floor of the building was not furnished, Johnson Hall opened in 1894. In its first year, the building was used as a girl’s dormitory but switched to men the next year. The Board of Trustees created regulations for Johnson Hall in 1894. Some of the rules for the women in the building’s included, “No one may leave their Hall without permission of the Matron,” and “The young ladies in going out at night are to be chaperoned by the Matron, or someone designated by her. On such occasions they are to sit near each other, and to leave the place together, and to yield to the wishes of the chaperone.”
For many years, Johnson Hall was used as a men’s dorm. In 1913, the building again became a girl’s housing unit after the construction Felix Hall for men several years before. Johnson Hall received a $20,000 expansion in that same year, possible from a gift from Dr. Ancil Gatliff. From the time of construction, the dormitory was also used as the college’s dining room. Then in 1958, T. J. Roberts Memorial Hall Cafeteria was constructed to take Johnson Hall’s place.
In 1994, Charles Gillespie of Midland, Texas provided significant funds to renovate the dormitory in addition to scholarship and program funds to the school. Taking two years, these renovations included new plumbing, new stairs, new floors, cable wiring, and other changes. Currently, Gillespie Hall houses about 100 freshman women every year.