South Building

Construction on South Building, known originally as Main Building, began in 1798, but lack of funds delayed its completion until 1814. Students reportedly built rough cabins inside the unfinished structure to escape crowded conditions in Old East. When it finally opened, South contained dormitory rooms for eighty students, halls for the debating societies, a library space, and a public hall. Unlike Old East, which has remained a dormitory space throughout its history, South Building's configuration changed on a regular basis to fit the university's needs.

In 1926 university leaders committed to a full renovation to house administrative offices. The interior was completely removed, the basement dug out to create another floor, and the large south portico facing Polk Place was added. The northeast corner of the first floor became the president's office and remained so until William Friday moved the Consolidated University offices to the Coates Building on Franklin Street. The South Building office then became the chancellor's office, which it remains today.

South Building still has a bell, which was first installed in the early 1800s and automated in the 1930s. Before that, the building's custodian (known then as a janitor) rang the bell for class changes. It is now rung only for special occasions.


Date Established: 1799

Date Range: 1799 – Present

South Building decorated with banners for the 2019 spring commencement. Photo by Johnny Andrews, UNC-Chapel Hill.