Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed: We are going to find a way to preserve Gaines Hall

By Maria Saporta

Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed pledged to do all he could to preserve the historic Gaines Hall on the Morris Brown campus.

Gaines Hall, which was built in 1869 and was one of the original buildings in the Atlanta University campus, caught on fire last Thursday evening. Gaines Hall currently is owned by Invest Atlanta, the city’s economic development agency which acquired the building earlier this year as part of the Morris Brown College property sale.

The Atlanta Fire Department on Friday said the building should be torn down because it posed a safety threat.

Preservationists immediately responded by saying Gaines Hall was too significant to be torn down.

After examining the building n Friday after the fire, Sheffield Hale, president and CEO of the Atlanta History Center; and Mark McDonald, president and CEO of the Georgia Trust for Historic Preservation, stated that the building could and should be saved.

Mayor Reed agreed.

Gaines Hall 2013

A boarded up Gaines Hall awaits its fate in 2013 (Photos by Maria Saporta)

When asked about Gaines Hall at a press briefing Monday morning, Mayor Reed said: “I would like to see it preserved.” He added that he had not yet been able to “have a conversation about” Gaines Hall with his cabinet and key staff members.

But Reed said it was important for the city to preserve the building because of the number of leading historical figures who “did scholarship” in the building.

“We are going to find a way to preserve it,” the mayor stated unequivicably.

Local preservationists enthusiastically welcomed Reed’s sentiment.

“That is all anyone could ask of the Mayor,” Sheffield wrote in an email Monday afternoon. “My experience with Mayor  Reed is that if he says he is going to find a way to make something happen – he does.”

Mark McDonald also was delighted by the mayor’s response.

“The Georgia Trust is encouraged by Mayor Reed’s intention to save Gaines Hall,” McDonald wrote in an email. “We pledge our technical assistance and help with advocacy for this heroic effort.”

Hale serves on the board of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, and he said that preservationists stand ready to help provide their expertise and to work on ways to save the building.

The former domitory has been vacant for years, But with all the investment being centered on the Westside of Atlanta, it may be an opportunity to find an appropriate longterm use for the building. Gaines Hall is just a few blocks west of the new Mercedes Benz Stadium, the future home of the Atlanta Falcons and Atlanta United Football Club.

John Wilson, president of Morehouse College and the longest serving president of the four historically-black colleges that make up the Atlanta University Center, also agreed that the building needed to be saved.

“I agree with the sentiment it should be preserved,” Wilson said after being told of the mayor’s comments. “I think the question is: preserved as what and to what end? What is most important is reactivating it as a force for good for the people in and beyond the Westside.”

Invest Atlanta, which is the official owner of Gaines Hall, is assessing the damage and the options for the building.

“We are early in the process and have yet to do a full analysis of the damage,” said Susan Chana, a spokeswoman for Invest Atlanta. “As part of this, in coordination with the City of Atlanta and other local stakeholders, we will be exploring all options. It is our hope that even with what appears to be extensive damage, the building can still be preserved.”

Maria Saporta, Editor, is a longtime Atlanta business, civic and urban affairs journalist with a deep knowledge of our city, our region and state.  Since 2008, she has written a weekly column and news stories for the Atlanta Business Chronicle. Prior to that, she spent 27 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, becoming its business columnist in 1991. Maria received her Master’s degree in urban studies from Georgia State and her Bachelor’s degree in journalism from Boston University. Maria was born in Atlanta to European parents and has two young adult children.

4 replies
  1. John Wolfinger says:

    Could have saved us a lot of money and resources by making sure the bullding was secured from trespassers at the time we the taxpayers took possession.Report

    Reply
  2. Save Gaines Hall says:

    That is great. This, and the appointmen of Tim Keane to planning, are welcome signs from the mayor. Arthur Blank has made a stated commitment to Vine City. What a great project for his foundation to hang their hat on. If Sparta can save their courthouse, we can save this. http://www.macon.com/news/local/politics-government/article30174009.html. The show of support for saving the building is still on tomorrow at 4 PM at 643 MLK, Jr., Drive.Report

    Reply
  3. Robert Silvia says:

    Why do we keep pouring taxpayers money down the drain on stupid stuff like this? Because it sounds like a great idea and the politicians know it’s not their money!Report

    Reply

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