The Georgia Trust

 

University of Georgia's Rutherford Hall Threatened with Demolition
State and Local Preservation Organizations Disagree with University’s Plans to Tear Down one of School’s Oldest Female Dorms

ATHENS, Ga., July 1, 2011—The Georgia Trust for Historic Preservation and the Athens-Clarke Heritage Foundation recently learned of the University of Georgia’s (UGA) plans to demolish historic Rutherford Hall, one of the oldest female dormitories on campus. Built in 1939, the historic female dormitory was constructed with Public Works Administration (PWA) funds during President Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal program.

“Rutherford Hall is a building that truly expresses the historic character of the University of Georgia campus. The Georgia Trust encourages the University to rehabilitate this building instead of demolishing it. We believe this is the historically and environmentally sound course to take. UGA has a strong track record in historic preservation, and we hope they will build on it in their treatment,” said Mark C. McDonald, President and CEO of The Georgia Trust.

“Rutherford Hall is a significant building and tearing it down should not be considered. Given the number of outstanding historic rehabilitations UGA has completed in the past 10 years—including the other three dorms on the quad—it’s puzzling why they would make this decision” said Amy Kissane, Director of the Athens-Clarke Heritage Foundation.

“To say it has outlived its usefulness makes no sense,” Kissane added. “Many of the buildings on North Campus that have been renovated, including both Old and New College, were dinosaurs by today’s standards, but UGA was committed to their preservation. They know how to do it, and they should do it in this case as well. Too often the historic and architectural significance of buildings on South Campus are dismissed. That needs to change.”

A letter dated June 1, 2011 from UGA Architect Paul Cassilly to the Georgia Historic Preservation Division (HPD) acknowledges the historic and architectural significance of Rutherford Hall but states, “Unfortunately, the physical facilities have not kept pace with the demands of modern residential life.” However, in contrast to this statement is the recent and ongoing renovations of Rutherford’s sister dormitories, Soule, Myers, and Mary Lyndon. David Crass, HPD’s division director and deputy state historic preservation officer, states in his response letter that the university has not provided adequate documentation to justify their decision, and in fact, provided two professional reports that seem to contradict each other in terms of the feasibility of renovating the dorm.

“Rutherford Hall is a grand old lady and an important piece of women’s history at UGA,” said Helen Fosgate, who lived in Rutherford Hall for two years in the late ‘70s. “Thousands of women lived there over seven decades, and this dorm is a part of our collective memories and experiences. I understand she’s in terrible shape, but after 75 years of service, Rutherford deserves our respect and attention—not a wrecking ball.”

If you have questions or concerns, the Georgia Trust for Historic Preservation and the Athens-Clarke Heritage Foundation urge you to send your comments via e-mail to:
-- Paul Cassilly, UGA Architect's Office, cassilly@uga.edu;
-- David Crass, Georgia Historic Preservation Division, david.crass@dnr.state.ga.us;
-- Michael Miller, State Board of Regents, Michael.Miller@usg.edu
-- Copy the Athens-Clarke Heritage Foundation at achf@bellsouth.net.

As state entities, the University and the Board of Regents are required by the Georgia Environmental Protection Act and the State Stewardship Act to take into account public comment on actions having to do with historic properties.

For more information, please call the Athens-Clarke Heritage Foundation at 706-353-1801.

UGA and FDR’s New Deal Projects
In the early 20th century, multiple national movements coalesced on The University of Georgia campus in the form of 15 Public Works Administration (PWA) projects completed from 1936 to 1941. Two of these PWA buildings, Mary Lyndon Hall (1936) and Rutherford Hall (1939), were the second and third women’s dormitories built on campus.

The PWA was one of many New Deal programs started by the Franklin Delano Roosevelt (FDR) administration to stave off the devastating impact of the Great Depression. In essence, the PWA was a jobs program using federal monies to fund building projects across the United States. Rutherford Hall was one of about fifteen such projects at UGA, the majority of which were located on UGA’s historic South Campus, originally the State College of Agriculture. Perhaps more importantly, Rutherford was only the third dorm built at UGA to house the ever-increasing number of women pursuing college degrees. Most of these PWA buildings were designed by Roy Hitchcock with R.H. Driftmier acting as engineer. These two men had a tremendous influence on UGA’s twentieth-century development.

The first women’s dormitory, Soule Hall, was completed in 1919 as part of the State College of Agriculture in which the College of Home Economics resided. Soule, Mary Lyndon and Rutherford, together with Myers Hall, built in 1953, form the historic Myers Quadrangle on UGA’s South Campus. Ironically, while the proposed demolition of Rutherford is controversial now, its construction in 1939 was likewise controversial. Then Georgia Governor Eugene Talmadge disliked Franklin Delano Roosevelt (FDR) and objected to any branch of the state government using federal funds. Talmadge went so far as to sponsor a bill in the State Senate to prevent University President Steadman V. Sanford from receiving the federal funds; a compromise was eventually reached. More recently, the Myers Quadrangle has played a prominent role in UGA’s desegregation history. Charlayne Hunter-Gault, one of the first two African American students admitted to the University of Georgia, lived in Myers Hall when she and Hamilton Holmes integrated the campus in 1961.

About the Georgia Trust for Historic Preservation
Founded in 1973, the Georgia Trust for Historic Preservation is one of the country’s largest statewide, nonprofit preservation organizations. The Trust is committed to preserving and enhancing Georgia’s communities and their diverse historic resources for the education and enjoyment of all.

The Trust generates community revitalization by finding buyers for endangered properties acquired by its Revolving Fund and raises awareness of other endangered historic resources through an annual listing of Georgia’s 10 “Places in Peril.” The Trust helps revitalize downtowns by providing design and technical assistance in 102 Georgia Main Street cities; trains Georgia’s teachers in 63 Georgia school systems to engage students in discovering state and national history through their local historic resources; and advocates for funding, tax incentives and other laws aiding preservation efforts.

To learn more about The Georgia Trust, visit www.georgiatrust.org.

About the Athens-Clarke Heritage Foundation
A nonprofit preservation organization, the Athens-Clarke Heritage Foundation was founded in 1967 to save Athens’ oldest residence, the Church-Waddel-Brumby House. The Heritage Foundation became the leading advocate for the importance of historic preservation to the future of the Athens community and continues to be a proactive force in developing community-wide understanding of the value of historic buildings, neighborhoods, and heritage.

For more information about the Athens-Clarke Heritage Foundation, visit www.achfonline.org.

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