Why “Tutwiler” ? How the Library Was Named

We are all acquainted with the Tutwiler Library, but not everyone knows who “Tutwiler” was.

Carrington Cabell Tutwiler, affectionately known as “Tut,” was a longtime professor of English literature at VMI, married to a charming Lexington lady named Gillie.  Not long after the Bartensteins gave the Sunnyside Farm property to the Lexington Retirement Committee (thus launching the process of designing and building Kendal at Lexington), Farris Hotchkiss, as a member of the LRC board, called upon the Tutwilers to ask if Tut would consider supporting the fledgling community with a sizable gift.

After a pleasant visit at Beaumont, their fine old residence on Lee Avenue, Colonel Tutwiler presented Farris with an extremely generous donation, adding that he and his wife were happy to support the venture, but they would surely  never move to Kendal.  How wrong he was!

Thanks to the Tutwiler gift, and many others, construction proceeded apace, so that on July 17,  2000, the first residents were able to move into their cottages and apartments.  Surprisingly, among those very first nine residents were Tut and Gillie Tutwiler, occupying cottage 1011 in cluster 3!!  In the time since speaking with Farris a few years earlier, because of unexpected health problems, they had come to realize that their spacious house and formal garden were increasingly difficult to keep up.

When KaLex opened, one of the most inviting public spaces in Anderson Hall was the library, then a cozy room with a fireplace and easy chairs.    (During phase 2 that room was reconstructed to become two marketing offices.)  Not long after the opening, the LRC board officially named the library Tutwiler Library, in appreciation for Tut’s generous monetary donation, as well as a large number of books from his personal library, many of which he had inherited from his aunt, Ellen Glasgow, the renowned early-20th century novelist and pioneer feminist.

During his years at VMI, Colonel Tutwiler taught hundreds of cadets, covering the spectrum of English literature, as well as his specialty – Victorian poetry.  (His rank of colonel in the Virginia Militia coincided with his academic title of full professor.)  Gillie  Tutwiler was well-loved as a charming hostess and an expert in the textile arts – quilting and needlepoint – always ready to “adopt” newcomers to the community and make them feel at home.  The couple adjusted easily to the Kendal “family,” but, sadly, Tut died only a year after they moved into their cottage.   Gillie stayed on, enjoying her relationships here as well as old friends in the community.  With a beautiful singing voice and a special talent for whistling, she often entertained residents in the dining room with her musical abilities.

– – by Resident Mary Coulling for Connections December 2020