Boeing gift to help restore Allen U. landmark

Boeing Co. gave Allen University a $250,000 grant Tuesday to help restore Chappelle Auditorium

Boeing Co. on Tuesday gave $250,000 to Allen University in Columbia to help pay for restoration of Chappelle Auditorium, the site of historic speeches by African-American leaders such as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Muhammad Ali.

“Allen University and Chappelle Hall hold a unique place in the history of this great state,” Beverly Wyse, Boeing South Carolina’s vice president and general manager, said in a statement. “We at Boeing are proud to support this restoration so that future generations can also experience this important cultural landmark.”

Restoration of the 90-year-old building began in early 2014 and is expected to be completed by the end of this year.

Lady June Cole, Allen University’s interim president, said she is “thrilled” with the partnership with Boeing, which makes the 787 Dreamliner twin-aisle commercial airplane at its campus in North Charleston.

“The potential for building upon this foundation and establishing a reciprocal relationship which benefits our students and our campus is unlimited,” Cole said in a statement. “It is incumbent upon us to continue to be innovative and creative in our collaborative efforts which support the growth of Allen University.”

In its early history, Chappelle Auditorium at 1530 Hardin St. became a significant landmark as a place where African-Americans could freely assemble. It has been recognized by the U.S. Department of the Interior and placed on the National Register of Historic Places in South Carolina as a National Historic Landmark due to its unique architectural features and historic significance.

Among the others who have spoken or performed at the auditorium are: Mary McLeod Bethune, founder of a private school for African-Americans in Florida; the Rev. Jesse Jackson; and blues singer Brook Benton. It was designed by John Anderson Lankford, known as the “dean of black architects.”

“We recognize the importance of Allen University to the history of all South Carolinians and we are proud to be associated with Chappelle Auditorium, which has always been a special place for assembly, the arts, and positive engagement, and has made this state and this country a better place for all,” Ray Conner, CEO of Boeing Commercial Airplanes, said in a statement.

Reach David Wren at 937-5550 or on Twitter at @David_Wren_