The nurses’ training school building, completed in 1930, was made possible by a gift of some $40,000 from the Presbyterian Women’s Auxiliary and by Stillman students, who contributed much of the labor. Named after former dean of women Emily Estes Snedecor, the facility housed a hospital that served both students and townspeople. Student nurses undertook two years of training in the hospital under the supervision of registered nurses. Requirements for admission to the program were strict. Only single girls or widows were accepted. Students were screened for personal health and hygiene, with each applicant required to “bring a signed statement from her dentist saying that her teeth are in good condition.” The price of tuition was forty dollars for twelve months, including the cost of two nursing uniforms. At the height of the nursing school’s enrollment, forty-two young women were registered.
Plagued from the beginning by financial problems, the nursing school struggled along for almost twenty years, as inadequate income from the hospital gave rise to staff shortages and other problems that kept the school from ever attaining full accreditation. Following World War II, when the US Army turned Northington General Hospital over to the City of Tuscaloosa, Stillman Hospital lost its charity patients to Northington. Finally, the struggle became too difficult, and in 1948 the hospital and the nursing school closed.
That same year, the school changed its name to Stillman College and began offering a four-year course of study a year later. Today, it has over one thousand students and a campus of one hundred acres. None of the nineteenth-century structures remain, including the Cochrane house, which was dismantled in 1954. That structure’s cast-iron Corinthian column capitals now grace the facade of the Sheppard library building completed in 1956.
Stillman House, Winsborough Hall, and Emily Estes Snedecor Hall remain vital parts of the college community. The restored Stillman House is used for gatherings by alumni and other groups. Winsborough Hall remains a girls’ dormitory. Snedecor Hall is used for both offices and classrooms. Architecturally and historically, these fine buildings deserve recognition for the role they have played in the lives of countless African Americans, and preservationists look forward to the day when they are added to the rolls of the National Register of Historic Places.
This feature was previously published in Issue 54, Fall 1999.
Eliza Cobbs served as an intern at Alabama Heritage during the summer of 1999. Kristil Bottle, an Alabama Heritage intern from Stillman College, assisted with research.