Gateway to the Future
Deconstruction, reconstruction under way at Belk Residence Hall
|About Belk’s Namesake
Belk Residence Hall was dedicated to Henry Belk when it opened in the fall of 1966.
Belk was the long-time editor of the Goldsboro News-Argus. He worked at the paper for 42 years, from 1926 until 1968. He was a chairman of the North Carolina Press Association in 1950-51.
Belk trained several reporters who went on to successful careers, including Gene Roberts, a former managing editor of the New York Times who later was editor of the Philadelphia Inquirer. During the 18 years that Roberts was editor of the Philadelphia paper it won 17 Pulitzer Prizes.
Belk served on the East Carolina Board of Trustees from 1945 until his death at age 74 in 1972. He was board chairman from 1963 to 1964.
Partially blind, Belk was an early advocate of integrating the student body. He also pushed the board to rescind a school policy against black musicians performing on campus.
He also promoted equal opportunities for disabled students. In the 1960s he served on the President’s Committee for the Employment of the Physically Handicapped. He was named North Carolina’s handicapped man of the year in 1961.
A native of Monroe, Belk received a B.A. Degree from Trinity College (now Duke University) in 1923 and did graduate work in journalism at Columbia University in New York.
– Steve Tuttle
During dedication ceremonies on Nov. 7, 1966, Mr. and Mrs. Henry Belk view the oil portrait of Belk that was hung in the dormitory named in his honor. (Photo courtesy of ECU Archives)
Work crews have taken apart Belk Residence Hall brick by brick to make way for two buildings that will become a new entrance to East Carolina University’s main campus.
Residence halls Gateway East and West will better link the College Hill neighborhood to the athletics complex and the 14th Street corridor.
“They’re kind of our gateway to the future as housing is reinventing itself through renovations and construction,” said Bill McCartney, associate vice chancellor of campus living.
The new halls will stand in Belk’s place at the top of College Hill Drive. They will be similar though not identical: Both will be five stories tall and will house students in either suite-style or traditional rooms. Each suite-style room will accommodate four students, who share a bathroom.
“The unique design of the buildings is providing a tremendous amount of support space for the entire College Hill neighborhood,” said McCartney. Amenities will include music practice rooms, conference rooms, quiet rooms, study rooms, lounges, an outdoor courtyard, a sand volleyball court and a basketball court.
“We want to center the energy for the hill into this new building,” said Aaron Lucier, director of housing operations.
Some of the living–learning communities located in other campus living neighborhoods will be moved into the Gateway residence halls. “The building is being designed for the living-learning communities that are…supportive of a student’s academic success,” McCartney explained.
By adding programming space for the community and moving the Neighborhood Service Office and the computer lab for the College Hill neighborhood into Gateway, these buildings could become the new focal point of College Hill.
“From a literal and a figurative standpoint, it will be the crown jewel,” said Lucier.
Belk Hall has served as a home away from home for close to 500 students at a time since 1966. Gateway East and West will house a combined 720 students. There will be two residence hall coordinators and 18 resident assistants to help create a community for the first occupants, who are expected to move in by fall 2015.
“I’m excited we’re able to offer our students a great facility and set a new standard,” said Lucier.
Verónica Rodríguez-Mendez, Belk Hall coordinator, said she and other resident assistants took pride in being a part of the “last class of Belk” during the fall semester. “There was a lot of movement, so the people who stayed until the end of the semester were the most connected (to Belk),” said Rodríguez-Mendez.
Jessica Jones, a Belk Hall RA, began the fall semester with nearly 50 students, ended the semester with only 15 and strived to build a nice community among her residents. “We worked hard to build that because they only had one semester (together),” said Jones.
As alumni and recent residents prepared to say farewell to the 47-year-old ECU landmark, there were opportunities to tour the hall and reminisce about their time in Belk. Rodríguez-Mendez said when alumni came to visit, some teared up at the sight of their old room. Others visited with friends they met for the first time in Belk Hall.
“There is not going to be a moment (the building) comes down, it will be a series of moments,” said Lucier. Because of the gradual removal process, Lucier added, “we’re having people focus on the memories.”
Bricks, door plates, suite numbers and mailbox covers are currently on sale for people to purchase to remember Belk forever.
“This building is a creating a new standard for housing quality, in terms of the hill and comparing the old Belk to what Gateway is going to be,” said Lucier. “I think we’re developing a new campus landmark.”
For more information on purchasing a piece of Belk or the project progress, visit http://www.ecu.edu/cs-studentaffairs/rememberbelkhall.cfm.