Bancroft Hall was opened as a dormitory in 1909. It was originally named Johnson Hall after founder and first President David Bancroft Johnson [1856-1928]. When the YMCA Student Building was completed in 1920, the students wanted to name that building Johnson Hall in honor of their beloved president. The 1909 building was renamed Bancroft Hall, using Johnson's middle name. In 1961, an annex was added to the south wing making the the building's shape a symmetrical 'U'. The building was made into offices in 1974 but became dormitory space once again in 1979. In the mid 1990s, the building once again became office and classroom space.
Plans were begun for a new dormitory in 1908 after student enrollment exceeded the 300 spaces provided by the first two mirror-image dormitories, Margaret Nance and McLaurin. A $50,000 appropriation was squeezed from the State Legislature for a building to house 200 girls. Architects were Edwards and Sayward of Atlanta, and the general contractor was the J. D. Elliott Construction Company of Hickory, N. C. Opened in 1909, the building cost $66,000. The excess was covered by donations from the Peabody Board and other charities.
The three story masonry building has a “U” shaped plan, with a low pitched overhanging hipped roof. Large dentil blocks under the boxed cornice of the roof give the appearance of exposed rafter ends, a cosmetic adaptation of the Indian bungalow style popular in the early 1900s.
A plain stone belt course that separates the second and third floor levels is the only decorative feature to break the uniformity of the red brick façade. The roof has a center gable over the front entrance. Under it is a one story entrance porch originally supported by round wood Doric columns with flat, overhanging roof and denticulated wood cornice. Windows are 6/6 sash with stone sills, regularly spaced one per bedroom with double windows over the entrance and at hall ends.
A central hall runs through each floor of all three sections with small bedrooms (15’ x 13’") opening on each side in the front section and south wing. Lounges are on the first and second floors of the main section, on the south side of the entrance. Resident councilor’s apartments are on the first floor opposite the entrance from lounges. All baths are near the inside corner of where the main section joins the north wing on each floor.
The north wing was built for faculty office space on the first floor, with additional dormitory rooms on the second and third floors. Faculty and students were housed in the building.
The original building was never fully completed and work continued on it until 1914. Winthrop’s increasing enrollment and inadequate funding from the state resulted in piece by piece construction of all its dormitories until after World War II.
In 1961 an annex to the south wing, making the building’s shape a symmetrical “U” was built for $275,000. Architects were Baker & Gill, of Florence, SC, and the general contractor was Moore Construction Company of Rock Hill,SC.
The new wing with full basement was built totally for dormitory space with small bedrooms and central baths on each floor. It is continuous with the original building but in a Neo-Georgian style rather than the turn of the century eclectic style of the 1909 section.
Around 1950 the wood Doric columns on the front porch were replaced with square brick pillars, significantly detracting from the building’s character. During the 1970s there were several changes in use of the building. In 1974 the 1909 section of Bancroft was closed as a residence hall and was used for offices while the 1961 annex was used as a men’s dormitory after Winthrop became coeducational in fall of 1974. In reaction to housing shortages that resulted from increasing enrollment in 1978 and 1979, Bancroft was converted back to a dormitory in 1979. Bancroft was once again closed as a dormitory in 1991 and has since been used for offices and classrooms.
The Glenda Pittman and Charles Jerry Owens Hall, completed in 2007, is a 32,200 square-foot general use academic building and was built between the wings of the Bancroft Hall “U” where a parking lot was previously located. Owens Hall has two spaces accommodating up to 100 students to allow certain classes to meet concurrently for special events, in addition to 16 smaller classrooms targeted to Winthrop’s growing student body. A computer lab, two conference rooms and a student lounge will round out the $5 million facility, with all classrooms equipped with ‘smart’ technology.
Architecturally, Bancroft Hall only has local significance, however the overhanging roof and plain design are unlike any other campus building. With the evolution of large trees and shrubs on the front lawn, the plain façade is a more satisfactory background than over-detailed Neo-Georgian buildings built later.