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History Of Tech’s Iconic Cupola Before Replacement Installation

/ The Upper Cumberland's News Leader
History Of Tech’s Iconic Cupola Before Replacement Installation

The new cupola on Tennessee Tech’s Derryberry Hall is set to be installed in late September.

The new, fully aluminum cupola is set to be an exact replica of the iconic feature on Tech’s campus. University Archivist Megan Atkinson said the new installation will be a relief for upkeep compared to the extensive work records she has seen in the archives.

“You have a series of pictures with people on scaffolding painting or people in baskets on cranes painting the cupola,” Atkinson said. “This happens almost once every five years.”

Atkinson said the extensive administration building redesign happened under University President William Derryberry in the 1960’s. She said a look back in the archives showed even Derryberry himself was worried about the final look of the cupola.

“He was upset because they had done it in lead covered copper and it showed as a shiny silver instead of a copper color,” Atkinson said. “We actually had copper colors all over the rest of campus used, including the cupola on top of Jere Whitson hall and the fact that they had colored it the way it was. He complained because it was going to deteriorate into a dull grey.”

Atkinson said that Derryberry’s concerns did not end at the cupola color, but how it would look with the newly relocated golden eagle that was moved from the Jere Whitson Memorial Library. However, she said the true purpose of the cupola was not about looks.

“The cupola’s purpose was to be both iconic with the building, ornate but when you mention the clock and things like that, the cupola’s primary purpose was to be functional,” Atkinson said. “That was to keep time for the campus and the students and that was the main purpose for the installation.”

Atkinson said the clock’s “bells” are really more of a sound system. She said the archives even has a master clock in storage.

“The master clock was used to control all of the clocks on campus to tell time for students,” Atkinson said. “They called this the master clock and called the other little clocks, the slave clocks. The slave clocks are supposed to follow the master clock and that makes sure that everybody is doing everything at the same time.”

The original administration building was built in 1912, being fully renovated from the ground up in the early 1960’s. The administration building redesign was initiated by a letter to Tech’s Alumni Association to make the most outstanding building on campus.


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