At the close of the 19th century, Winthrop was annually turning away over 200 girls. At the urging of Winthrop President and founder, David Bancroft Johnson, the Board of Trustees requested an appropriation of $35,000 from the SC General Assembly to build a second dormitory (the first being Margaret Nance Hall in 1895). Initially ignored, Johnson began lobbying individual legislators with the result that in December 1900 the money was appropriated. As the building neared completion it was discovered that an additional $8,000 was needed to finish the project. Johnson then appealed to philanthropists across the country for funds and among those who came to his rescue was the wealthy banker and railroad promoter, George Foster Peabody. When the college opened on October 9, 1901, South Dormitory (later renamed McLaurin Hall) was ready and at the dedication, Johnson declared that it stood as “a monument to the generosity of the men of the State and an unmistakable evidence of their determination to make liberal if tardy provision for the education and training of the daughters of the State."
Built in the same 3-story “L” pattern as North Dormitory (Margaret Nance Hall), South Dormitory joined with Main Building (later renamed Tillman Administration Building) by a covered walkway. South Dormitory was built with a finished basement under the wing and later a bathroom tower wing was added. The defining feature of the building was the three tiers of porches that lined the front the front of the building. In the 1930s these wooden porches deteriorated to the point that they were removed.
A new “art hall” was created on the top floor of the new dormitory with “sky-lighted rooms for the teaching of drawing from life and of modeling, a dark room for the development of photographic negatives, and other rooms for the teaching of carving, designing, etc.” A special recreation hall in the basement was used for group games and exercises during bad weather.
In 1925, Winthrop decided to begin naming unnamed campus buildings after persons who left an enduring legacy upon the school. As a result South Dormitory was renamed McLaurin Hall for Daniel W. McLaurin, a charter member of the Board of Trustees who served from 1891-99 and 1903-28.
McLaurin Hall served Winthrop as a dormitory until the building began to deteriorate due to neglect in the 1970s. The building was slated to be demolished and replaced by a new academic building to house the school of education and the psychology department in 1981. Governor Dick Riley, however, vetoed the project and McLaurin Hall received a reprieve much to the delight of Winthrop Alumni. McLaurin Hall was thus given a second chance and in 1988, after significant interior renovations, the building became home to the College of Visual and Performing Arts at Winthrop.