Another Alderman at the Old Well

Jul. 12, 2014 @ 01:19 PM

Chapel Hill High School rising senior Morgan Alderman hopes the Old Well on the UNC-Chapel Hill campus will bring her luck when she applies there this fall.
According to legend, drinking from the fountain at the Old Well will bring academic success to Carolina students.
Morgan has a family connection to this campus icon, one that should give her a special claim to the well and to its history.
Her great-great grandfather's cousin was UNC president Edwin Anderson Alderman, who was responsible for building the Old Well.
In 1897, Alderman arranged for the wooden shed over the campus well to be replaced with the structure that had a classical design, the one that we enjoy today.
Some people criticized Alderman for the extravagant spending on this structure when the university was strapped for resources and desperately needed funds for more practical capital projects.
Total cost for the project: $200.
The story of how and why President Alderman pushed through this project is told in detail in Sarah Brandes Madry's 399-page book “Well Worth a Shindy: The Architectural and Philosophical History of the Old Well at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.” Madry writes that President Alderman not only wanted to add a beautiful structure to the campus, but also, she writes, “In the act of giving the Old Well temple to the campus he was planting a plea for a change in the unprosperous and, cantankerous local political and economic public sentiment of post-Civil War North Carolina.”
Alderman assigned a project to Professor Joshua Gore to design the new structure around the Temple of Love in the gardens of Versailles in France. Gore passed on the assignment to Eugene Lewis Harris, a professional portrait artist. He gave Harris a photo of the Temple of Love to use as a guide. Years later, Harris’ family gave that photo to the North Carolina Collection, where it is available to show the source of the Old Well’s classical design.
In 1900, after only four years as president, Alderman left his alma mater to become president of Tulane. Four years later, he became president of the University of Virginia, serving there until his death in 1931.
During his short tenure at UNC, he opened the doors of graduate programs to women and established the school of pharmacy.
However, if he could see the thousands of young people, who like Morgan Alderman, have their pictures made there each year, he would have to be proud that his $200 investment in a rough copy of a classic temple is still paying dividends.

D.G. Martin’s regular weekly column appears on The Herald-Sun’s editorial page on Wednesdays and online at Martin hosts “North Carolina Bookwatch,” which airs Sundays at noon and Thursdays at 5 p.m. on UNC-TV. Viewers with access to UNC-TV’s digital channel UNC-MX can preview the program on the preceding Friday at 9 p.m. For information or to view prior programs visit the webpage at