Black Student Home Dedicated
April 21, 2012
Written by By Jessica VanderKolk for the Centre Daily Times
STATE COLLEGE — A home painted shades of gray at 119 N. Barnard St. was called a "safe harbor" and "beautiful" on Friday, among the tributes offered by former residents, other Penn State alumni and local officials.
In the Holmes-Foster neighborhood, minutes from campus and downtown, sits Lincoln Hall, a house built in 1910 that housed black male students from the 1930s to the 1950s.
For unknown reasons, black women could live in university dorms.
"Penn State didn't have an official policy that didn't allow black males on campus, but it was an unofficial one," said 1983 graduate
Darryl Daisey, who spoke about the home's history during a dedication Friday afternoon.
Earlier this week, a maintenance crew placed the new historic plaque on the front of the home, gave the porch a fresh coat of paint, and installed a bright, white lattice on which vines could grow. A similar feature can be seen in a photo from the 1940s.
Wally Triplett, a 1949 graduate and former Lincoln Hall resident, said his luck started in the house, and that he's "the luckiest guy in the world." Triplett was one of Penn State's first black varsity football players.
"I found out I was in the company of real students," he said. "There were no keys; nobody locked the doors. That's the kind of community it was."
The house was operated by Harry and Rosa Gifford, their children Bessie and Emanuel, and Emanuel's wife, Agnes. The family worked as cooks in Penn State fraternity houses.
Clayton Wilson III, also a 1949 graduate and Lincoln Hall resident, met Agnes Gifford in one of those kitchens before he moved into the house. He roomed with 1948 graduate Perry Smith and met his wife while at Penn State.
"This was a very happy time for me," he said.
Wilson said Lincoln Hall filled a "vital role" in the community.
"It helped launch me on a successful and productive life," he said.
Daisey didn't live in Lincoln Hall, but is part of the Penn State Black History Project that researched the home's history.
About two years ago, Daisey and the project confirmed that Lincoln Hall still existed. Then they sought to hold Friday's dedication and educate people about the home's history.
"You want to make sure people understand and appreciate where you are today," he said. "There's a really inspiring story there. Even though this was a segregated area, there was a lot of support there for the handful of black students on campus."
According to the borough rental permit for the house, Lincoln Hall has two apartments and seven rooms. It is not classified as a student home.
Roy Grant moved into the house just a couple of months ago, after arriving from New York. He works as a mechanic nearby.
Grant said he didn't know of the home's history.
"I think it'd be something special," he said.
Penn State senior Nick Desloges, who has lived in the house since January and attended Friday's ceremony, said he came home Monday to find the plaque installed. He said he didn't know the home's history until reading about it and talking to the maintenance crew sprucing up the place.
"I thought it was the coolest thing," he said, offering to take the former residents inside for a tour.