By Mark C. McDonald, President and CEO of The Georgia Trust
ATLANTA, Ga., Aug. 8, 2012—In light of the recent demolition of Rutherford Hall and the proposed destruction of Legion Pool, the Georgia Trust for Historic Preservation respectfully requests and heartily recommends that the University of Georgia create a campus preservation plan.
There is a longstanding and good-natured debate between Georgia and North Carolina as to which state has the honor of possessing the oldest state university in the United States of America. In the final analysis, what really matters is not which is older but which university places greater value on the heritage and traditions of its institution. We all know that the University of Georgia was chartered in 1785 and its campus is fortunate to have a great number of beautiful historic buildings. The North Campus boasts Old College, which dates from 1806, New College (1822, 1830), Demosthenian Hall (1824), the Chapel (1832), Phi Kappa Hall (1836), and a host of other historic resources. Historic buildings from the early twentieth century are abundant on South Campus. Examples include Conner Hall (1908), Memorial Hall (1929), and Dawson Hall (1932). UGA also has many historic buildings from the mid-twentieth century such as Stegeman Coliseum (1964) for which an appreciation has been growing.
Even though it is the historic buildings that most people relate to, the heritage of the campus also resides in its landscaping, staircases, recreational facilities, hidden pathways and greater still, in the memories of thousands of people who have attended the university and hold it dear in their hearts. The university and its heritage do not belong to one person, one class of students, or one administration. The decisions made by one administration can, for better or for worse, alter our collective memory and consciousness about what the university has been, what it is, and more importantly, what it can be.
Over the past years there have been many preservation controversies in Athens, many of which we believe could be mitigated if the University of Georgia would adopt a campus preservation plan. This has been the experience of many colleges and universities in our state that have adopted such plans. The public, current students, alumni, Athenians, and all citizens who know and love the university deserve the right to make public comment on plans which will have an irreversible impact on the priceless University of Georgia campus.
A campus preservation plan would give citizens notice of the priorities of the University and plans for treatment of its many historic resources. A public hearing process would ensure public notice and participation of the campus plan and, when it comes to implementation, could possibly minimize the controversies inherent in managing such a large and complex college campus.
The University’s exemplary record of preserving its historic buildings, especially on North Campus, is impressive considering that UGA does not have a preservation plan; however, the university’s heritage extends beyond North Campus and deserves careful consideration and protection. I believe this step would assuage the fears of many people and organizations that care for the heritage of the campus.
The Georgia Trust for Historic Preservation stands ready to assist.
About the Georgia Trust for Historic Preservation
The Georgia Trust for Historic Preservation is one of the country’s largest statewide, nonprofit preservation organizations. Committed to preserving and enhancing Georgia’s communities and their diverse historic resources for the education and enjoyment of all, The Georgia Trust generates community revitalization by finding buyers for endangered properties acquired by its Revolving Fund; provides design assistance to 102 Georgia Main Street cities and encourages neighborhood revitalization; trains teachers in 63 Georgia school systems to engage students to discover state and national history through their local historic resources; and advocates for funding, tax incentives and other laws aiding preservation efforts.