The Georgia Trust


Bainbridge, Decatur County

When the Bainbridge City Hall needed more space, city leaders did not abandon downtown to build a new municipal complex. They not only stayed in the heart of the city but rehabilitated a total of four historic buildings in the process.

Historically located downtown, civic buildings often become functionally obsolete when their size no longer meets the demand of the services that they are required to provide. Civic buildings are frequently considered too expensive to rehabilitate, and as a result, local leaders face pressure to leave downtown districts and build modern facilities elsewhere.

Preservationists doggedly encourage retail, restaurants, entertainment venues and residential buildings to remain in historic downtowns. It is just as essential to keep government downtown because these buildings create foot traffic that supports local establishments. Bainbridge can count itself among the visionary communities that have recognized the value of governmental institutions to the revitalization of their downtowns.

Since 1976 Bainbridge's City Hall offices and Main Street offices were housed in the grand marble bank building on the southeast corner of the square and its adjacent commercial building. Though functional, the manner in which these two buildings were combined was less than ideal. Multiple entrances that access various departments were not interconnected and the entrance into the City Council chambers was particularly confusing.

In April 2012 the City of Bainbridge began a 15 month SPLOST-funded rehabilitation of City Hall. The $4.2 million project included rehabilitating the bank and commercial building already in use, and expanding into a third adjacent building, the historic Kwilecki Hardware Building.

The three buildings were creatively combined to create a cohesive interior that is entirely accessible from a single entrance. The former bank's lobby was restored to a large, welcoming open space featuring its original coffered ceiling of pressed tin. Historic building materials were salvaged from the Kwilecki building and creatively repurposed throughout the space.

During rehabilitation city offices were temporarily relocated to the Gowan Building, another downtown historic building. Funded by a grant from the Kirbo Foundation and with consultation from The Georgia Trust's Main Street Design Assistance program, the Gowan Building's fa├žade and ground floor were restored. This resulted in the revitalization of another significant corner of Bainbridge's square and created additional downtown commercial space.

Preservation is as much about revitalizing and maintaining a community's sense of place as it is about saving an old building. The Bainbridge City Hall project provides a compelling example of a municipality that embraced its future without demolishing its past.



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