Spencer Residence Hall

Located at the southwest corner of East Franklin Street and Raleigh Street, Spencer opened in 1924 as the first residence hall for women at Carolina. The building included parlors and a dining room and kitchen facilities. In 1930 the third floor was finished, adding nine rooms. In 1958 an addition provided room for an additional seventy students. In the 1960s the kitchen and dining room were replaced with a study room and an apartment for the residence director. Spencer is now a residence hall for women and men and, because of its prime location on Franklin Street, a popular choice for Carolina students.

The building was named in 1927 for Cornelia Phillips Spencer, the first woman to receive an honorary degree from the university, in 1895. Spencer was a writer and journalist and the daughter and sister of UNC professors. She is best known for chronicling university and village life during the Civil War and Reconstruction. During Reconstruction, Spencer sided with the Democratic Party, composed mainly of former Confederates, against Republicans on the question of racial equality. Spencer was best known in Carolina history for being the "woman who rang the bell." This was a reference to the legislature announcing that the university would reopen in 1876, after Democrats had regained control of state government. Reportedly, when news of the reopening reached Chapel Hill, Spencer led a small group to campus, where they rang the bell in South Building to mark the occasion. Even though as a woman Spencer did not have an official role at Carolina, she was very much part of the community. She wrote hymns for special occasions, organized events, and helped keep alumni records. Despite her conservative stance on race, Spencer supported public education and increased opportunities —if not coeducation —for white women.

When the university created an award to honor women in the 1990s, they named it the Cornelia Phillips Spencer Bell Award, in homage to the popular story. In 2002, galvanized by graduate student and activist Yonni Chapman, scholars began to talk about Spencer's outspoken support of white supremacy. After a campus seminar on the subject, then-chancellor James Moeser abolished the award in 2005. It has been replaced by the University Award for the Advancement of Women.


Date Established: 1921

Date Range: 1921 – Present