The Arthur Rose Museum began as the university's first library building in 1898.
Founded in 1869, Claflin University is the oldest historically black university in South Carolina. Support for the institution in the early days came primarily from Methodists in the New England and Middle Atlantic states. Mrs. Priscilla E. Lee Bennett gave funds to erect the first library building at Claflin. She asked that the building bear her maiden name, Lee, and that the name be inscribed on a Claflin University, terra-cotta tablet next to the front porch; another tablet bears the date 1898.
The library architect was a Claflin graduate who had returned to teach. He was William Wilson Cooke, the son of a prominent Reconstructionist in Greenville, SC. While teaching at Claflin, Cooke drew plans for the Lee Library in the current Victorian style and supervised its execution by his students in 1898. Students even fired the bricks in kilns dug on the campus. Except for the loss of the original metal tile roof, little has changed on the exterior save the expansion of a rear window into a doorway, a change mandated by fire codes. A walk around the building reveals interesting architectural details in the ornate trim work, chimneys and urn grills.
After the library relocated to another part of the campus, this building housed the art department for many years with Professor Arthur Rose as Chairman. Later, the art department moved to Layman Hall. After the board of trustees decided to convert the old Lee building into a museum, an effort progressed to restore much of the original appearance of the interior of the building. Removing the carpet revealed the beautiful hardwood floors. The pressed metal ceiling is visible in near-perfect condition. We welcome you to what has now become the Arthur Rose Museum.
- The Museum features exhibits from world renowned artists.
- The museum is open Monday – Friday from 9 a.m. – 4 p.m.
- Admission is free and open to the public.