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Renovation of historic Fountain Hall gets major boost with grant for a new roof

Maria Saporta
Morris Brown College's Fountain Hall on the Atlanta University Campus (Special: Lord Aeck Sargent)

By Maria Saporta

Morris Brown’s Fountain Hall will get a new roof, thanks to a $500,000 grant from the National Park Service African American Civil Rights Grant.

The administration of Morris Brown College has reviewed and endorsed the stabilization project for the historic Fountain (Stone) Hall, which is designated as a National Landmark.

The grant will replace the old roof and drainage system with new wood decking and a roof covering comprised of a new synthetic slate roof replacement treatment proving for better runoff and extended economic life.

Fountain Hall

Fountain Hall, part of the Morris Brown campus, makes 2020 “Places in Peril” list (Photo by Kelly Jordan)

The plan was proposed by a historic preservation developer, Fountain Hall Development Group, LLC, in collaboration with Morris Brown College. The new roof will be installed by subcontractors selected by Atlanta-based C.D. Moody Construction, the construction manager for the project.

The project will transform the roof and clock tower to look like its original natural stone composition. It will remove and replace old gutters and downspouts with new drainage equipment which will improve rain runoff while maintaining its historic appearance, according to a press statement released Monday by Morris Brown College.

The grant application for the Fountain Hall project was written by Dr. Candy Tate, who represented the Atlanta branch of the African American Life and History on behalf of Morris Brown College. In an email, Tate said the grant will cover all but $15,000 of the roof replacement.

“Fountain Hall is the historic symbol of perseverance and strength of our institution,” said Dr. Kevin James, the interim president for Morris Brown College. “Our goal is to preserve the historic asset by first stopping all water intrusion, and secondly, to take steps to allow the building to dry from leaked moisture in order to prevent further deterioration.”

James also said he was grateful to be working with a historic preservation developer to create “a longer-term plan for a total rehabilitation of this historic asset, which will restore it functionally for active use again.”

Fountain Hall has played an integral role in both Atlanta’s and the nation’s civil rights history – especially because of the presence of W.E.B. Du Bois in the buildings when it was part of the Atlanta University campus in the early 1900s.

Morris Brown College’s Fountain Hall on the Atlanta University Campus (Special: Lord Aeck Sargent)

““We look forward to expanding Atlanta’s long civil rights story from W.E.B. Du Bois to a modern era social and civil rights activist, Hosea Williams, a highly recognized Morris Brown College alumni,” Tate said in the release. “It is an honor to collaborate with their administration and dedicated alumni to restore this National Landmark.” Tate, who was recently named to the Board of the Georgia Trust for Historic Preservation, serves as vice chair of Historic Atlanta, and she serves on the Future Places Project for the City of Atlanta’s Office of Design. She has been a long-time  advocate for African American historic preservation in the Georgia.

“To have the bell, inscribed with ‘Dedicated to the Education of Youth, Without Regard to Sex, Race or Color,’ ring again will be a testament to Morris Brown College’s perseverance,” Tate said.

The collective goal of the various organizations is to collaboratively develop a preservation plan to reactivate Fountain Hall for Morris Brown College and the community along the Martin Luther King Jr. Drive corridor. Tate said it is estimated that it will cost a total of $30 million to fully renovate Fountain Hall.

Fountain (Stone) Hall is a National Landmark designated in 1974 by a nomination to the National Park Service’s National Register of Historic Places as a building that contributes to the Atlanta University Center (AUC) Historic District.

The National Trust for Historic Preservation is a major financial contributor to the Fountain Hall Project through its African American Heritage Action Fund. Fountain Hall was also designated a “2020 Places in Peril” by the Georgia Trust for Historic Preservation, a state preservation organization.

W.E.B. Du Bois

Built in 1882 for the emerging Atlanta University, Fountain (Stone) Hall represents the long freedom struggle for educational and social equality unavailable elsewhere for African Americans post-Civil War.

Its elevated site is called “Diamond Hill,” the oldest part of AUC’s campus. Stone Hall, one of Atlanta University’s original buildings, was the office of renowned educator W.E.B. Du Bois where he prepared and wrote “Souls of Black Folk” (1903).

Fountain Hall became part of Morris Brown College in 1932 through a collaboration with Clark College who had acquired all the Atlanta University properties. It was deeded to Morris Brown College and later renamed for African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Bishop William A. Fountain, former president of Morris Brown College. Morris Brown College is the first school in the post-civil war Southern United States founded by African Americans in the state of Georgia. The exterior of Fountain (Stone) Hall has not changed over time. The steepled clock tower remains the iconic logo of Morris Brown College.

To make a tax-deductible contribute to the next phase of Fountain Hall’s restoration to the Clock Tower, readers can text TOWER to 71777. For more information, contact African American Life and History.

Fountain Hall by Kelly Jordan

Fountain Hall (Photo by Kelly Jordan)

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Maria Saporta
Maria Saporta

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.

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1 Comment

  1. Avatar
    Jean Spencer March 24, 2020 3:29 pm

    I’m glad to see money finally going toward actually saving a historic building, not writing a report that sits on a shelf. Take note, National Trust!Report

    Reply

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