Carnell Hall

Some History

written and researched by Gerry Wilkinson

1803 N. Broad St.
Philadelphia PA 19122-6095
(Located at North Broad Street, just above Montgomery Avenue)


Carnell Hall contains some of the Registrar's offices, the Graduate School offices, and Administrative computing offices. It was named for Dean Laura Carnell, who started as Principal of the Women's Department in 1893. She soon became the University's chief administrator, as Secretary of the Board of Trustees. Called the "Dean of Deans," she ended up as Associate President from 1925 to her death on March 30, 1929.

Ground was broken on March 7, 1928 with the cornerstone laid on November 14 of that year. It was dedicated on February 15, 1929. Note that Carnell Hall from the date of ground breaking to dedication was erected in less than ten months.

The twelve stories of Carnell Hall replaced four large row houses with small front yards. They were 1809 thru 1815 North Broad. However, the University has always referred to Carnell Hall as being at 1803 North Broad. This building is joined on either side to Conwell Hall and the Mathematics/Computing Building (Wachman Hall). Originally called "Unit No. 2," it was to be the beginnings of a proposed block-long "Temple of Learning," from Conwell Hall to Baptist Temple. At the February 12, 1930 University Board meeting by an unanimous vote, was renamed Carnell Hall.

Here's an interesting fact about Carnell Hall. When constructed in 1928, it towered over Conwell Hall. On the northern side of Conwell Hall, about 20 to 25 feet wide, additional floors were built. The additional floors are in Carnell Hall with the original lower floors in Conwell Hall.

Legend has it that after Dr. Conwell's death, Carnell who had, in effect, run the University for the previous 25 years, was offered the presidency, but refused on the grounds that the situation needed a man. When Charles Beury took the position of president, it was with the understanding that the responsibility for the academic program would be assumed by Laura Carnell.

Laura H. Carnell is a name seldom heard in the public statements about the founding and the growth of Temple University. She worked unseen and unselfishly as the "right-hand man" of Russell Conwell. At age 28, she gave up teaching in the Philly public schools to start her long career at Temple. Her faith in Dr. Conwell's idea of bringing the university to the common people was paramount. In the early days at The Temple College, Carnell was under orders from Conwell to provide classrooms and teachers for any group of six or more students who wished instructionin any subject, no matter what it was. Each of the eleven schools of Temple was started, organized and developed by Dean Carnell with no funds other than the small tuition feeds, and the use of dwelling houses acquired from time to time. Kitchens, attics and basements were used for classrooms.

Dr. Conwell once said of Laura Carnell

She was a leader...and a careful business manager who knew the cost of nearly everything used in the college. And she knew every student's name. She could give in a sentence a clear analysis of each student's character and capacity.... Without praise, with small pay, no recreation and no recognition, she sped on with no thought of honor or fortune.

Temple University was founded by Russell Conwell, but Laura Carnell was the unseen power which directed its progress, growth and direction.

Photo of Carnell Hall

This picture, from February of 1998, was taken by Gerry Wilkinson.

1931Photo of Carnell Hall and Conwell Hall

Photo of the 1800 block of North Broad Street in 1922

This picture dates from 1922 and shows the rowshouses that were torn down to build Carnell Hall.

Photo of Conwell Hall and future site of Carnell Hall.

On the left side of Conwell Hall are three of the five row houses that were razed when Carnell Hall was constructed. Photo dates from between 1926 and 1928.

From Al Maslin....I also looked at the Conwell Hall/Carnell Hall photo. The "techies" among us will remember that the WRTI-FM transmitter was at the top of this building and the antenna was on the roof. That was the old ITA 500 watt (790 watts ERP) setup that we were using when I was there. On ocassion I'd have to go up there and give it a kick to make it work. Gee, remember the old remote control system with the telephone dial in master? 1