By Maria Saporta
Fountain Hall, the historic tower owned by Morris Brown College, has received an important $75,000 grant from the National Trust for Historic Preservation.
In all, the National Trust announced Friday morning it was awarding a total of $1.6 million to 22 sites and organizations through its African American Cultural Heritage Action Fund.
Brent Leggs, executive director of the Action Fund, underscored the importance of the work.
“The recipients of this funding shine a light on once lived stories and black culture, some familiar and some yet untold, that weave together the complex story of American history in the United States,” Leggs said in an announcement made at the 2019 Essence Festival.
This year’s funds, provided by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, were awarded to key places and organizations that help the Action Fund achieve its mission of protecting, restoring, and interpreting African American historic sites and uncovering hidden narratives of African Americans and their contribution to the American story. Grants are given across four categories: capacity building, project planning, capital, and programming and interpretation.
“The planning grant will help Morris Brown figure out what we need to do to bring the building back to life,” said Candy Tate, who chaired the effort for the Atlanta branch of the Association for the Study of African American Life and History. “This is validation from the national level. It was a very competitive grant process. We are hoping that it will bring attention to Fountain Hall locally.”
Fountain Hall, built in 1882, was given the grant for the critical role it played in the history of the Atlanta’s black colleges and universities. The announcement described Fountain Hall in the following way:
“With its distinctive tower situated at the top of Atlanta’s “Diamond Hill,” Fountain Hall housed W.E.B. Du Bois’ office, where he wrote his seminal work, The Souls of Black Folk. Located on Atlanta’s Westside, this vacant and deteriorating structure is the oldest surviving building associated with Atlanta University, one of the first Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) in the South.”
Fountain Hall is located on the south side of Martin Luther King Jr. Dr. It is connected by a pedestrian bridge to Gaines Hall, situated on the north side of Martin Luther King Jr. Dr.
Gaines Hall, built in 1869, actually predates Fountain Hall. But a fire in 2015 left Gaines Hall without a roof. It currently is owned by Clark Atlanta University, which us been undergoing a series of leadership changes at the top.
Tate said the Atlanta team also is applying for other grants to stabilize Fountain Hall until enough money is raised to fully restore the historic tower.
“We want to get the building to a place where we could walk donors through it,” Tate said. “This grant will be to assure the future use of the building – to see what will be needed to bring the building back on line.”
For a list of the 22 sites and organizations receiving grants from the National Trust, please click here.