Roosevelt Cabin, first referred to only as "the Cabin," one of the oldest
buildings on the main campus, symbolizes more than any other building Miss
Berry's history and philosophy. Soon after the schools opened in 1902, Miss
Berry and Captain John Gibbs Barnwell, architect for the Berry Schools, drew up
plans for a rustic log cabin which was to serve as a guest house and a social
center/demonstration cottage, intended, as Elizabeth Brewster later put it, to
demonstrate to the highlanders that "a home may be simple and inexpensive and at
the same time in good taste and even beautiful." Martha Berry and Elizabeth
Brewster moved into the Cabin from the dorm, Brewster Hall, in 1903.
In these early days the cabin
was the heart of the campus in several ways. It caught the overflow from the
small school kitchen in Brewster Hall; there were usually a large black iron pot
of beans boiling on one fireplace and potatoes roasting in a bed of coals in the
other. Here Miss Berry worked to help students acquire poise and polish; she
insisted that everyone (students and teacher alike) speak up at her Sunday
afternoons and other social gatherings, that they make little speeches and offer
toasts (using coffee or water). Daily prayer services were held in the Cabin,
and Miss Berry taught Sunday school there; in inclement weather Sunday worship
services were held indoors.
In 1907 Martha Berry moved back to Oak Hill and for many years the Cabin
served as a guest house. The visits of several very important persons are
associated with it. One of the earliest of these was the Honorable Hoke Smith,
a distinguished Georgian who later served as governor and senator. Smith spoke
at the first commencement. The most famous visitor to the cabin was former
President Theodore Roosevelt, who had a luncheon there during his visit on
October 8, 1910. The next day The Cabin was renamed Roosevelt Cabin by Miss
Berry. President Roosevelt and his party arrived at the Rome depot in a pouring
rain and drove over the campus in the schools' oxcart, which he insisted on
driving himself. Afterwards they were served a meal in the cabin. Walter
Johnson, a student, was assigned to wait on the table.
Later Roosevelt Cabin served for many years as the site of a traditional
farewell dinner at the end of each visit of the Berry Pilgrims. The Berry
Pilgrim Society was organized by Mrs. John Henry (Emily Vanderbilt) Hammond, who
first visited Berry in 1924 (Martha Berry letters, Berry College Archives). For
40 years she annually organized a group of friends and acquaintances to spend a
few days at Berry. A pamphlet in the archives documents a 1963 visit by Mrs.
Hammond (her last) at which at 92 years of age, she stood and read poetry to
students in the Berry College Chapel.
Customarily, over the years, the last evening of these pilgrimages was a special occasion at which dinner would be served for the guests, Miss Berry, and some of the faculty members. Afterwards the Ballard Girls would entertain. Dr. Cook would tell Uncle Remus tales. Menwhile the student body would have been quietly gathered outside the cabin, each carrying a lighted candle. The students would sing mountain ballads and traditional songs. The concert would always end with the hymn of farewell, "God Be with You til We Meet Again," sung by the students as they back away slowly, so that the music would finally fade away in the distance.
The cabin also served some other purposes during its long history. For a
time a practice school was conducted there; the older students helped to teach
the elementary pupils, mainly the children of faculty and staff members. Evelyn
Hoge Pendley, associate professor emeritus of English, records in A Lady I
Loved that she started first grade in this log cabin in 1923. The cabin was
later used as alumni headquarters, and it is today preserved as a museum. Open
house is held on Mountain Day and at other special occasions. One of Mrs.
Carlisle's many gifts to Berry was a $10,000 endowment for the maintenance of
the cabin and its surrounding area. In 1947, the Daughters of Berry erected a
marker at the cabin in recognition of Mrs. Carlisle's gift.