The Atlanta Constitution regularly covered news from Lanier University during its existence. The 1921 ad (right) is from that source. The Ku-Klux Klan: Hearings before the Committee on rules, House of Representatives contains the 1921-22 Lanier University bulletin. A good short history of Lanier University by Craig Strain appears in the 1981 newsletter of the Morningside/Lennox Park Association.
This news item was reprinted by the Lexington (MO) Advertiser. Emory and Katherine Todhunter, along with their sister Elliott, were faculty members at Lanier and natives of Lexington.
Lanier University, founded by a Baptist minister C. Lewis Fowler, opened on September 11, 1917 for 150 students. The key element of the new school was the Conservatory of Music. Early on, the Constitution noted recitals and other musical entertainments. (See the news item left) Twelve of the 16 graduates in 1918 received the Bachelor of Music degree. A school band was to be organized in 1920. Often performing with conservatory members was the Department of Spoken Word. Lanier had two literary societies—Hupersian and Basilian—which engaged in oratorical contests and debates. Students also performed the missionary drama “Heroine of Ava” in 1918.
The goal of Lanier University was to “meet the needs of struggling young men and women of today.” To that end, it began to add programs, to deliver programs at times convenient to students, and to deliver some classes in different formats. It trained domestic science teachers and auto-tractor workers; it offered a summer term, making it a year-round school; it offered night classes—especially in business, Spanish, and law—for those holding day jobs; for students who could not come to Atlanta, it offered seventy classes by correspondence—including seventeen classes in religion.
Initially, Lanier was associated with the Baptist Church, and Baptist ministers helped in fundraising campaigns. The school had a chapter of the Baptist Young People’s Union. But Lanier was not connected to the Southern Baptist Convention, so when it began to experience financial difficulties—partially brought on by building costs of the new campus—it had to look elsewhere for funding.
In August 1921, Lanier University passed to the owner ship of the Ku Klux Klan; Imperial Wizard Joseph Summers became president of the college. However, under Klan ownership Lanier enrollment fell to 21. In July 1922 the school went into receivership and closed in October 1922.
Bricks and Mortar
Classes opened in nine rented rooms at 614 Peachtree Street. This former residence was advertised as “one of the handsomest homes in the city.” In November of 1917, the school announced that it had received a gift of 56 acres of property near Druid Hill worth $250,000.
The school began a capital campaign to raise $100,000, and Atlanta architect A. Ten Eyck Brown drew up plans for a series of buildings around Druid Hill. Each building was to be a replica of a famous Southern structure. The initial building, a replica of the Custis-Lee Mansion, was completed in 1919 and named Arlington Hall. This building housed some Lanier University classess, others were taught at Peachtree Street.
When Lanier University encountered financial difficulties, plans for the other buildings were scrapped. Arlington Hall was purchased by the Congregation Shearith Israel in 1949. Renovated, it became a synagogue, and was later used by the Atlanta Hebrew Academy. It has recently been renovated again.
Arlington Hall. Image by Keizers.
Enrollment of male students at Lanier was never robust—21 in 1919, 30 in 1920, and 48 in 1921. When a football team from the school played Marist College on October 7, 1920, the Constitution noted that this was “the first fling at any branch of the athletics” for Lanier. The team played three games in a period of 9 days, and this constituted their football history. After losing to Marist 72-0, the team lost to Mercer 59-0 on October 9, and then to North Georgia Agricultural College of Dahlonega 171-0 on October 16. Lanier was listed as an opponent for Stetson University in 1921, but apparently the game was never played.
In a “hotly-contested” basketball game in December 1920, the Lanier men’s basketball team lost to Gordon Institute 64-14. A girls’ basketball team from the school defeated Washington Seminary 8-0 also in 1920. Both teams played in one of the Atlanta city leagues.