Daily Collegian Story - Ceremony Honors Lincoln Hall, First Black Dorm on Campus

By Trevor Horby - Collegian Staff Writer as printed in the Daily Collegian on April 23, 2012

When Wally Triplett — credited as the first African-American varsity football player at Penn State and part of the inspiration for the "We Are… Penn State" chant — arrived on campus, he had no place to sleep at night.

But then-football coach Bob Higgins directed him to Lincoln Hall, a small house off campus that housed black male students during a time that they were unable to stay in dorms.

Lincoln Hall Historical Marker - click to see larger

Triplett's story is typical of those early black students who found shelter at the residence.

Tucked a block past Atherton Street , 119 N. Barnard St. — better known as Lincoln Hall — received a historical dedication marker Friday to recognize the building's contributions to the Penn State African-American community.

The residence, named for Abraham Lincoln, operated as a boarding house under the Gifford family, a local State College family, for about eight black male students from the 1930s until the 1950s.

Black male students were barred from residence dorms from 1930-1946 due to an unofficial campus housing policy, said Penn State alum Darryl Daisey .

State College Mayor Elizabeth Goreham at Giffy House Historical Marker Dedication on April 20, 2012

Several speakers addressed a small crowd before the historical marker was unveiled, the first being State College Mayor Elizabeth Goreham . The ceremony will add Lincoln Hall and its marker to the sacred places to visit in State College, she said, because of the colossal contributions of the modest house to the community.

"The people who lived here and provided housing to the students deserve our recognition," she said. "They led the way when Penn State was a different place to live."

Daisey, Class of 1983, spoke next, extolling the Gifford family for their assistance in employing and housing black students and creating a network for the early generations of black students.

  Lincoln Hall Dedication Program - Click to Download

Lincoln Hall Dedication Program - Click to Download

Lincoln Hall provided a safe harbor for these students to grow in a segregated world, which was crucial to break down racial barriers, he said. The house produced many esteemed alumni who paved the way for future generations of black students, he said.

"The building was a catalyst to the diverse population at Penn State today," he said.

Two of the three surviving Lincoln Hall residents, Triplett and Clayton Wilson III , also spoke at the ceremony.

Triplett, Class of 1949, spoke about how Lincoln Hall and black Penn State students set the stage for future generations.

And on a weekend that Penn State turns its attention back to football, he credited football for helping to desegregate Penn State and said the desegregation of the campus and football team for creating the modern National Football League.

"Whenever you look at the NFL, which is the largest thing going today, trickle that down to the fact that the seed that was planted that started this negro into the NFL started right here at Penn State," he said. "And it started here in Lincoln Hall."

Wilson III, Class of 1949, said Lincoln Hall filled a very vital role in supplying housing and serving as a social center for African American students. The house launched many students, Wilson included, on "a successful and productive life," he said.

Celiena Bady , the president of the Penn State Chapter of the NAACP, said that preserving the history of African-Americans at Penn State was critical and that hopefully the marker would bring more recognition to the importance of Lincoln Hall.

"It is known a people without a history aren't a people at all. Let our history shine on this campus," Bady (junior-international politics) said. "More importantly, I hope the students reflect on this marker and continue to support one another, assist one another, and foster our talents as we achieve unity."

Download Dedication Program

CDT Story - Giffy's Lincoln Hall Historical Marker Dedication Ceremony

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.

 Click to Download Program

Click to Download Program

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.

Click to Download Dedication Program

Giffy's Lincoln Hall Dedication Ceremony - Video

Brother Dick Jones '60 speaks about Giffy at the Lincoln Hall Historical Marker Dedication Ceremony on April 20, 2012 in State College, PA.

Brother Dick Jones '60 speaks about Giffy at the Lincoln Hall Historical Marker Dedication Ceremony on April 20, 2012 in State College, PA.

Lincoln Hall Historical Marker

Lincoln Hall Historical Marker

This circa 1910 structure was a rooming house for African American male students at the Pennsylvania State College from the late 1930s to the early 1950s. Known as Lincoln Hall, it was the center for black life at that time.

The six to eight student boarding house was owned and operated by Harry and Rosa Gifford, their children Bessie and Emanuel, and the latter's wife, Agnes. The family had moved north from Mississippi to become fraternity house cooks.

Because of an unofficial campus policy, which ended in 1946, African American men could only choose to live in Lincoln Hall or as roomers in a few private homes. Of the handful of black female students, the choice was between dorms and private homes.

At times, the Lincoln Hall population made up half of Penn State's African American student enrollment.

(The interior photo above shows a 1949 fall welcome gathering — around initiators Emanuel and Agnes Gifford — for roomers and classmates.)

Lincoln Hall roomers of note included: Wallace 'Wally' Triplett III, Penn State's first African American varsity football player and a National Football League player; Henry “Barney” Ewell, All-American track star and Olympic gold medalist; James H. Robinson, Associate Dean and Director of Student Affairs, Jefferson Medical College; Roger Kenton Williams, Vice President for Academic Affairs, Morgan State University.

1949 fall welcome gathering — around initiators Emanuel and Agnes Gifford — for roomers and classmates

Lincoln Hall

Giffy's Lincoln Hall Historical Marker Dedication - April 20, 2012

Emanuel "Giffy" Gifford

Dear Theta Chi Brother's,

We are looking for a brother to speak about Giffy at the below event - please let us know if you are interested in participating in this event to celebrate Giffy and his family. 

This communication is to confirm that the Borough of State College, The Penn State Alumni Association, and the Penn State African American Alumni Council would be honored to have you or a representative of Theta Chi speak at the Lincoln Hall Historical Marker dedication ceremony from 3:45pm to 4:30pm on April 20, 2012 outside of 119 North Barnard Street, State College, PA (site of Lincoln Hall). Please see tentative agenda below, and kindly confirm your participation. Additional details will be provided at a later date. 

Tentative Agenda and Information - click here

  • Welcome – Mayor Elizabeth A. Goreham – State College (3 mins)
  • History of Lincoln Hall - Darryl Daisey – Penn State Black History Project (5 mins)
  • Reflections of Lincoln Hall - former residents (10 mins)
  • (Wally Triplett, Perry Smith, and/or Clayton Wilson III)
  • Additional Reflections – R. Seth Williams, Philadelphia District Attorney (10 mins)
  • Recollections of Emanuelle Gifford – Theta Chi representative (5 mins)
  • Gifford Family Comments – Gifford Family representative (5 mins)
  • PSU Student Comments - (NAACP – Travis Salters – (3 mins).

Regards,

Darryl Daisey '83
Penn State AAAC Historian

Lincoln Hall - 119 North Barnard Street, State College, PA

Remembering "Giffy" by Bill Youkers '55

  Emanuel 'Giffy' Gifford

Emanuel 'Giffy' Gifford

In the fill of 1951 all Freshmen had to live in on campus dorms. One of the exceptions wax for Track & Field Scholarships which was why Lamont Smith ( Smitty) and I were set up as room mates at a home around the corner from Theta Chi and given jobs to earn meals working for "Giffy" - the well known cook at the fraternit house. What a wonderful frosh year being with and learning from Emanuel T. Gifford - great cook, friend, and integral part of Thcta Chi! Who can ever forget his latest big Chrysler sedan pulling into the alley or hit coay inner sanctum office/nap- room off the always busy kitchen. I still rank him with my teachers it PSU for learning a bit
about life in the world of college freshmen. The fact that Smitty and I became pledges and brothers in our Soph year confirms our high tegard for the Thcta Chi fraternity family, its brothers and GIff's great meals and feeling of belonging.

Somewhere in the photo archives there may still be photos of Smith [miler/x-country] and Yourkers [high&low hurdles) from 1955. Back in those days house athletes were often hung on the wall. Here is an excerpt from the July 1955 "RATTLE - wish Giff could have seen it!

Bill Yourkers '55

Emanuel “Giffy” Gifford’s former Boarding Home designated as Historic Site

  Emanuel 'Giffy' Gifford

Emanuel 'Giffy' Gifford

The State College Borough Historic Resources Commission has designated the boarding home formerly run by Emanuel T. Gifford and his family as a State College Historic Site. A dedication ceremony will be held and a historical marker will be erected in April 20, 2012, during Blue White weekend. Because Emanuel “Giffy” Gifford was the long time chef for Theta Chi Fraternity from 1930’s – 1960’s,"Giffy" died on March 19, 1970, the fraternity has been asked to participate in the ceremony.  If you are interested in participating please click here to let us know and we will put you in contact with the right people .

“Lincoln Hall,” a boarding home for Black male students from the late 1930s to the early 1950s, served as an unofficial Black dormitory and early sanctuary for its residents.   Located at 119 North Barnard Street, State College, Lincoln Hall was operated by Harry & Rosa Gifford, their two children – Emanuel and Bessie, and Emanuel’s wife. The family had moved from Mississippi and Louisiana to take employment as cooks at local fraternity houses, including Phi Gamma Delta and Theta Chi.  The Gifford's and other Black cooks assisted many Black students by employing them to work for their meals.  In addition, they were supportive of the students in many ways and when needed would even lend them money.

Lincoln Hall could house about 6 – 8 students at a time (which represented up to half the colored students on campus during the late 1930s), and became the center of Black life at Penn State.  While the few Black female students could stay in the dorms during this period, the males were referred to either Lincoln Hall, or to the homes of a few white families that rented to Black students.  Born out of an unofficial segregated housing rule that ran until about 1946, Lincoln Hall is credited for nurturing, supporting and encouraging an early generation of Black students in the isolated State College environment.  Some alumni of Lincoln Hall are listed below the photo.

  Lincoln Hall

Lincoln Hall

  • Barney Ewell – Penn State track star and Olympic Gold Medalist
  • Wally Triplett – Penn State football star and future NFL player
  • Roger K. Williams – Vice President Academic Affairs at Morgan State University
  • Harold Dixon – Howard University physician
  • Ernest Lowe – Boston University physician
  • Perry Smith – Electrical Engineer
  • James H. Robinson – Former associate dean and director of student affairs at Jefferson Medical College
  • Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity founders (Penn State Chapter) – At least 3 of the charter members of Alpha Phi Alpha lived at Lincoln Hall during the formation of the chapter
  • Kappa Alpha Psi fraternity founders (Penn State Chapter) – At least 3 of the charter members of Kappa Alpha Psi lived at Lincoln Hall during the formation of the chapter

SourcesPerry Smith (‘48),  Wally Triplett (’49), 1930 US Census and World War I & II Draft Registration.

Penn Stater Nov/Dec 2010 - A Trip Back to “Lincoln Hall”

Like many freshman, Perry Smith arrived his freshman year at Penn State in 1944 without a place to stay. He was given a list of options - but as a black man, he had fewer than most. Penn State's dorms weren't integrated until 1950, and in the mid-1940s there were crammed full of miltary trainees. So it was no surpise he ended up at the first house on the list - 119 Barnard Street.

The house, owned by a black couple named Giffordho cooked for local fraternitities, was home to about half of the black students on campus. They paid $6 a week to live there and called it "Lincoln Hall," in Abraham.

Smith ’48 Eng visited his college home during the Black Alumni Reunion Sept. 10–12, and he recounted his memories to Darryl Daisey ’83 Bus, the organizer of the African American Chronicles website, which is preserving the history of African-Americans at Penn State. To learn more or share your own story,go to blackhistory.psu.edu.

penn-stater-nov-dec-2010.jpg

CDT Story - State College boarding house has place in Penn State's black history

On the evening of Sept. 10, Perry Smith, a 1948 Penn State graduate, was driven to a house he had not seen in more than 60 years.

Smith was in State College attending the 2010 Penn State Black Alumni Reunion. When he arrived at 119 N. Barnard St., he hardly recognized the place that, when he lived there, was called Lincoln Hall.

  Lincoln Hall

Lincoln Hall

Lincoln Hall was actually a boarding home for black male Penn State students from the late 1930s to the early 1950s. It served as an unofficial black dormitory and early sanctuary for its residents. Lincoln Hall could house about six to eight students at a time (which was up to half of the black students on campus during that time), and became the center of black life at Penn State.

While the very few black female students could stay in the dorms during this period (the first black coed arrived in 1929), the men were not allowed to stay on campus and were referred either to Lincoln Hall, or to the homes of a few white families who rented to black students.

Smith, a retired electrical engineer who lives near Boston, recalls that there was actually a small “Lincoln Hall” sign that hung on the porch.

The home was operated by Harry and Rosa Gifford, their children, Emanuel and Bessie, and Emanuel’s wife. The family was employed as cooks at local white fraternity houses, including Phi Gamma Delta and Theta Chi. The Giffords, and other black cooks, assisted many early black students through employment, meals, sometimes even by lending them money.

In addition to Smith, some of the alumni from Lincoln Hall include:

  • Barney Ewell, Penn State track star and Olympic gold medalist (three total medals, still the most of any Penn Stater)
  • Wally Triplett, Penn State’s first black varsity football player, and a former NFL player
  • Roger K. Williams, vice president for academic affairs at Morgan State University.
  • Harold Dixon, a Howard University physician. •Ernest Lowe, a Boston University physician.
  • Rufus Williams, student activist and father of Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams.
  • James H. Robinson, former associate dean and director of student affairs at Jefferson Medical College.
  • Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity founders (Penn State Chapter). At least three of the charter members of Alpha Phi Alpha lived at Lincoln Hall during the formation of the chapter.
  • Kappa Alpha Psi fraternity founders (Penn State Chapter). At least three of the charter members of Kappa Alpha Psi lived at Lincoln Hall during the formation of the chapter.

The Penn State Black History Project is still working to verify other students of note who lived in Lincoln Hall. We are also excited about receiving the assistance of State College Mayor Elizabeth Goreham, in exploring the possibilities of erecting a historical marker at the location. If ultimately approved, this may be the first historical marker associated with black Penn Staters in State College. It’s almost certain that none of the people who walk by the house, or even live there, know the significance of the building. A historical marker could help change that.

The building has been owned by the SC Sun Corp. since the early 1970s, and is still being used for student housing.

For more information on Lincoln Hall, its residents, and the black history of Penn State, go to www.blackhistory.psu.edu. Darryl B. Daisey, a 1983 Penn State graduate, compiled “Penn State University African American Chronicles,” the first comprehensive account of the black experience at Penn State.