Holladay Hall was built in 1889 by prisoners from the state’s penitentiary, and was the first building of the new North Carolina College of Agriculture and Mechanic Arts (now North Carolina State University). It was called the Main Building or Administrative Building until 1915. In 1915, the building was renamed after Alexander Quarles Holladay (1839-1909), who served as the first president of the university from 1889-1899. He also served as lieutenant under General Bragg during the Civil War.
Holladay Hall was the first building on campus and, for years, contained virtually the entire college. Prisoners of the state penitentiary built what was then called "Main Building" with bricks donated by the prison. Though it had no electricity or running water, the basement contained laboratories, a kitchen, a dining hall, and a rarity for that era--a gymnasium. Offices, classrooms, and a library of books donated by professors were located on the first floor. A total of 72 students lived on the second and third floors, paying a tuition of $130 per year, which could be reduced for students who swept floors, made fires, and waited tables at seven cents an hour. The building, of Romanesque revival design and with an exceptionally beautiful hallway, has been designated as a historic site by the City Council of Raleigh.
In 1915, the building was named Holladay Hall in honor of Alexander Quarles Holladay, NC State's first president. Holladay originally applied to NC State (then called the North Carolina College of Agriculture and Mechanic Arts) as an English professor, but was offered the presidency instead. He had studied languages, moral philosophy and law at the University of Virginia and the University of Berlin before fighting in the Civil War as an aid to General Bragg. Holladay was president of the Stonewall Jackson Institute as well as the Florida State Agricultural College at Lake City before he served NC State from 1889-1899.