In the late 1800s Spring Hill College experienced a massive fire which led to not only a reconstruction of the school but steps toward inclusion and a better Hill tomorrow.
In 1869, a fire broke out at Spring Hill College and burned down most of the campus. John Quinlan, the second Bishop of Mobile at the time, hosted several fundraisers that led to the current Lucey Administration Center being erected.
After the fire, the college evolved with the progressive era and moved to admit women, becoming one of the first coeducational colleges of Alabama in the late 1930s. This progressive move was a sign of things to come. “There was no 4-year Catholic college in Alabama which accepted women, so the Jesuits were also in favor,” said Fr. Christopher Viscardi, SJ, who is the College’s de facto historian.
The 1960s led to the integration of many colleges and universities in the South. For Spring Hill, integration happened much sooner, and without disturbance or hysteria, as Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. recalled in his “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” in 1963. For the following decade, “Spring Hill was the first and only integrated college in the Deep South. Not that this decision didn’t have consequences,” said Viscardi. “Integration made it more difficult to raise funds because the College was seen as too radical.
In 1957, students fought back against the forces, looking to do away with integration. The local chapter of the Ku Klux Klan wanted to put more pressure on the College and decided to sneak onto campus in the early-morning hours to burn a cross. “They did this during final exam week, so a lot of the students were up late studying,” Viscardi said. “When they saw it happening, they grabbed bricks and ran down and ran them off. They kept the cross as a trophy.”
Spring Hill is a place with nearly 200 years worth of history, trials and tribulations. But according to SHC historians, it is also a place of resilience and persistence; a cornerstone that still offers those who attend its guiding principle of cura personalis. Which is the Jesuit belief in care for the person as a whole and service to others.
Spring Hill College is a place you really have to see to be able to understand the camaraderie and love that fills this campus. For more information about the history of Spring Hill visit SHC History.