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Clark Atlanta University unveils renovated Harkness Hall Quadrangle Gate Entrance

By David Pendered

Clark Atlanta University on Monday unveiled the new Harkness Hall Quadrangle Gate Entrance, the latest step in the renovation of the historic campus.

Clark Atlanta University President George T. French, Jr. delivered the keynote remarks to unveil the new Harkness Hall Quadrangle Gate Entrance. Credit: Kelly Jordan

The Harkness Hall Quandrangle is special ground at CAU. The funeral of the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. was convened at the steps of Harkness Hall. The first African American president of Atlanta University, John Hope, is laid to rest at Harkness Hall.

The morning event began with the ringing of the Bells of Harkness Hall. This was another auspicious moment in the university’s history, as the bells had been silent for nearly 30 years until they were rung on Easter Sunday 2020.

CAU President George T. French, Jr. delivered the key remarks at the unveiling of the entrance, located at Student Movement Boulevard. The renovation work was central to French’s work since he arrived on campus nearly two years ago.

French observed, in prepared remarks:

George T. French, Jr.

  • “Enhancing Harkness Hall’s exterior was paramount. We immediately went to work with enhancements to the Clock tower, where we renewed the golden luster to the clock tower’s dome, reinstituted the ringing of the interior Bells which had been silenced since the early 90s and now fills the entire community with the richness and majesty of music, draped the Doric Columns with banners.
  • “Additionally, we installed pole banners on the Grande Promenade depicting college life at CAU, did fencing upgrades and today we are proud to unveil the Harkness Hall Quadrangle gate entrance. And yes, there is more to come….
  • “The campus is a treasure of living history. When you think of the many icons of culture who walked these very grounds like, it is awe-inspiring. W.E.B. Du Bois, James Weldon Johnson, Lucy Craft Laney, Evelyn Lowery, Ralph David Abernathy and President John Hope, the first African American President of Atlanta University, who is buried not far from here, on these grounds, are just a few of the luminaries who called CAU home as a faculty member or a student.”

Harkness Hall is an historic building on the CAU campus and features the famed clock and the bells that have been rejuvenated. Credit: Kelly Jordan

Harkness Hall was built on the campus of Atlanta University and named after Edward Harkness, a benefactor of the school, according to a report on the school’s website.

Harkness used the wealth spawned by Standard Oil and other investments made by his father to pay for buildings on college campuses through his family’s Commonwealth Fund, according to a report by the fund. This era of the program lasted from about 1918 to Harkness’s death, in 1940 and provided a total of $67 million in construction funds for college structures.

Legends about Harkness Hall and its grounds abound on the CAU campus. According to the school’s website, four bits of lore observe:

  • “The grass in front of Harkness is known as the Sacred Grass, it is said that if a CAU student steps on the grass, they will not graduate.
  • “Buried under the sacred grass is the 5th president of Atlanta University, John Hope.
  • “In Harkness Hall there are three vaults that hold the records of CAU, Morehouse, and Spelman College.
  • “It is rumored that in the vaults are passageways to each campus.”


David Pendered

David Pendered, Managing Editor, is an Atlanta journalist with more than 30 years experience reporting on the region’s urban affairs, from Atlanta City Hall to the state Capitol. Since 2008, he has written for print and digital publications, and advised on media and governmental affairs. Previously, he spent more than 26 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and won awards for his coverage of schools and urban development. David graduated from North Carolina State University and was a Western Knight Center Fellow.


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