UF Named Facilities
George Peabody Hall
George Peabody was an influential investment banker and known to some as the founder of modern philanthropy.
Peabody was born in 1795 in South Danvers, MA, now Peabody, MA. His family's modest finances provided only four years of formal education, and he went to work as a grocer's apprentice at the age of 11. Several years later, Peabody entered a business partnership and founded Peabody, Riggs and Company, a wholesale dry goods firm. Originally established in Baltimore, MD, the firm was successful and Peabody expanded branches to Philadelphia and New York.
Peabody's business sense served him well. He eventually served as president of the Eastern Railroad and then moved to London where he established George Peabody and Company, which handled American securities and foreign exchange.
Peabody's dedication to his country and overseas ties led to numerous diplomatic maneuvers. During the 1800s, American credit was shaky and the state of Maryland was on the verge of bankruptcy. Peabody negotiated an $8 million overseas loan for Maryland through the sale of bonds. He too purchased some of the bonds and eventually amassed fortunes from an investment once thought to be worthless.
Peabody's humble beginnings laid the foundation for unprecedented generosity. In 1852, Peabody donated $217,000 to establish The Peabody Institute in Peabody, MA and $100,000 for The Peabody Institute in Danvers, MA in 1856. A year later, his gift of $1.4 million founded The Peabody Institute in Baltimore, MD. Gifts totaling nearly $300,000 established Peabody Museums at Harvard University and the Essex Institute in Salem, MA. In 1867, Peabody donated $2 million to the Peabody Education Fund to support education in the South. The Peabody Donation Fund in London was set up to provide subsidized housing to the working class and still exists today. At the time, gifts of such enormous amounts were unheard of.
Peabody was honored all over the world for his professional success and remarkable generosity. In 1867, he was awarded an honorary Doctor of Civil Law degree from Oxford and the Congressional Medal of Honor. A statue of him stands in London's financial district, and he was presented with the Freedom of the City of London, an honorary civic award dating back to 1237.
Funded by the Peabody Foundation, Peabody Hall opened in 1913 as the predecessor of the College of Education now located in the Norman Hall complex. It remained the home of the College of Education for many years and accommodated a psychology lab, the presses of the Florida Alligator and the library collection. Later the College of Architecture and the Departments of History, Political Science, Economics and Sociology used Peabody Hall for faculty offices and classes.
Designed in Collegiate Gothic style by architect William A. Edwards, Peabody was renovated in 1990 and connected to neighboring Criser Hall. Criser-Peabody now houses the Registrar's Office and other student services. A statue of the university's second president, Albert A. Murphree, is the focal point of a courtyard framed by Smathers Library, Criser Hall, and Peabody Hall. Peabody Hall was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1979. It is a part of the University of Florida Campus Historic District, a collection of buildings added to the National Register as a historic district in 1989.
Narrative as displayed on the commemorative plaque:
In 1912, the George Peabody Education Fund, a foundation that supported education in the South, granted $40,000 for the construction of a Teacher's College building. Peabody Hall was completed the following year and the College of Education remained there until 1934. History, political science, sociology, philosophy, and psychology also had offices and classes in Peabody. Architecture used the top floor for design classes. The library collection of approximately 15,000 volumes was moved from Thomas Hall to Peabody where it remained until 1925. The student newspaper, the Alligator, had its first office in Peabody. In 1991 the building was renovated and it now used for student services.