Construction Date: 1939
Named For: Henry Elias Fries
The Fries Auditorium was built in 1939. However, on Saturday, June 13, 1970, torrential rains caused the roof of the auditorium to collapse. Everything in the building was destroyed, save one grand piano. The only remaining remnant of Fries Auditorium is a hand railing leading to the Diggs Gallery parking lot that stands adjacent to the C.G. O'Kelly Library on its western-most perimeter.
Fries Auditorium namesake, Henry Elias Fries, began his formal education at the Salem Boys School. He later enrolled at Davidson College, but very poor eyesight forced him to leave one year short of completing his degree requirements. Subsequently, he became the manager of Wachovia Mills, a flour production subsidiary of F&H Fries Company. In 1897, Fries became a pioneer in generating electricity when he founded the Fries Manufacturing and Power Company. Fries' company built a hydroelectric dam on the Yadkin River to supply electricity to the various mills in Winston-Salem; it was the first long-distance electrical transmission established in North Carolina. By 1913, Fries was operating an electric streetcar system, as well as supplying factories and private homes with electricity. Henry E. Fries served as a trustee and as chairman of the Board of Trustees of Winston-Salem State University for over 50 years. He died at the age of 92 in March 1949.