Estey Hall is the first building constructed for the higher education of black women in the United States. It is also the oldest surviving building of Shaw University, the first institutionalized effort to educate former slaves after the Civil War. A Union army chaplain and Baptist missionary, Henry Martin Tupper, founded the school in 1865. Tupper’s efforts were part of a widespread, church-based movement to educate former slaves in the post-Civil War South. Originally meeting in a Raleigh hotel room, Tupper’s school was subsequently provided a building by the Freedmen’s Bureau. In 1870, with the financial assistance of Massachusetts benefactor Elijah J. Shaw, the school purchased a tract of land at the south end of Fayetteville Street, near the former Governor’s Mansion. Five years later, the school was chartered by the General Assembly as Shaw University. It subsequently trained many of the region’s most prominent black professionals and business leaders.
Estey Hall served Shaw students for nearly 100 years. However, in 1970, advancing deterioration resulted in its closing. Talk of possible demolition led to the founding of the Estey Hall Foundation, which secured the renovation of the building’s exterior and partial renovation of its interior space. Estey Hall is a designated Raleigh Historic Landmark.
Estey Hall is located in the 100 block of E. South St., on the Shaw University campus. The bilding is used for meetings and events. Call 919-546-8275 or visit the university’s website.
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