The Georgia Trust

2008 PLACES IN PERIL: UGA Marine Institute Greenhouse & Administration Building

The Story: The UGA Marine Institute Greenhouse and Administration Building were built by Howard E. Coffin, automobile pioneer and principal landowner of Sapelo Island from 1912-1934. The administrative building (later a dormitory) was Coffin’s last major project built “from scratch.”
The greenhouse complex consists of 13 individual glass houses and two 14,000 above-ground cisterns plus a Lath House, two cold frame structures, and a water garden. Originally used to provide food and flowers for the Big House (later known as the Reynolds Mansion). The greenhouse is a fine example of a high-end prefab/catalog estate style greenhouse structure.
In 1949, Richard J. Reynolds formed the Sapelo Island Research Foundation, which would later become the University of Georgia Marine Institute (UGAMI) in 1953.

The Threat: The greenhouse complex has not been used since 1976 and is quickly deteriorating. Overgrown trees grow through the roof as much of the glass is gone.
The administrative building was closed over ten years. Mothballing the structure would help protect the building until preservation work could be done.

The Solution: The Friends of UGAMI have identified the greenhouse as one of their projects. A glasshouse restoration specialist was hired to survey the structures and provide restoration cost estimates. The Friends are currently working with a UGA consultant to put together a business plan. The rehabilitated greenhouses have many potential uses, for research, education and outreach. Rehabilitation of the Administration building could provide new office space and accommodations and become a likely second project for the Friends.

 

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