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Historic Preservation

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Report praises college for preservation efforts, but some buildings need work.

Architectural studies and condition reports have been conducted for seven of the Savannah College of Art and Design's most significant historical buildings.

SCAD owns several buildings in four historic districts in Savannah and has been recognized nationally for its preservation and revitalization work. But the college has also been criticized for allowing some of its properties to sit for years without renovation.

The assessment found that the condition of Kiah Hall at MLK and Turner Boulevard is good, however, the railroad sheds at the rear of the building are not. The college had to stabilize the structure before the city could begin road and drainage work this summer. The roof has collapsed and it is overrun by weeds.

The building was purchased by SCAD in 1988 and renovated in 2002 and is used to house the Earle W. Newton Center for British-American Studies and gallery.

Habersham Hall, at 235-239 Habersham St., served as the Chatham County Jail from 1888 until the building was condemned and the last inmate was moved in 1978. SCAD acquired the building in 1986 from a business group that gutted the cell block and removed the roof, which resulted in the loss of federal tax credits and crippled the project. SCAD renovated the jailer's residence in 1987 and uses it for student services and the athletics department. The cell block, however remains derelict and overgrown.

Habersham Hall.

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The three-year project includes research on the building histories and significance, inventories of architectural elements and condition assessments completed by DPK &A Associates, the Philadelphia preservation consulting firm that worked on renovation projects at St. John's Cathedral and the Confederate Monument.

The work was funded by a $150,000 grant from the Getty, one of the largest philanthropic supporters of visual arts in the country.

"Since a large portion of the nation's distinguished architectural heritage is found on college and university campuses, it is extremely important to incorporate historic preservation into the campus master planning process," said Deborah Marrow, director of the Getty grant program.

The college will use the reports to update its master facilities plan and prioritize preservation projects, according to Maureen Burke, dean of SCAD Academic Initiatives. The college also plans to host an exhibition on its historic buildings next year and will publish a book on its 30 historic properties in the fall.

"As a college we have to prioritize student buildings first," Burke said. "But now we have information to help plead the case for serious historical needs."

The other buildings in the study are in good condition. They are:

Poetter Hall, the former Armory of the Savannah Volunteer Guards, located at 342 Bull St. It is a Richardsonian Romanesque style building designed by Boston architect William Gibbons Preston. He is also responsible for Savannah's Cotton Exchange, the Hotel DeSoto and the Chatham County Courthouse. The building was completed in 1892 and is the largest and most complete historic military building in the South. SCAD purchased it in 1979 for use as it's first campus. It now houses Exhibit A Gallery, the Design Press, the college's illustration department and admissions office.

Poetter Hall, originally built in 1892 .

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Eichberg Hall and railroad sheds were built in 1888 as offices for the Central of Georgia Railroad. As part of the railroad complex they are the oldest and best example of the mid-19th century integrated railroad shops complex in the U.S. SCAD purchased the property in 1988 and did renovations from 1988 to 2002 to make the building safe and suitable for educational needs. It houses the school of building arts.

Eichberg Hall and railroad sheds was built in 1888 as offices for the Central of Georgia Railroad.

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Casey House and Casey Carriage House are located at East Liberty and Habersham streets. Casey House currently serves as SCAD's Pinnacle Gallery and bed and breakfast. The Queen Anne-style building was built in the 1890s as a residence with a first-floor shop. The Carriage House at Perry Lane and Habersham is constructed of Savannah gray brick. SCAD purchased the property in 1993. Casey House was renovated in 1996. The carriage house was not renovated and remains vacant.

Keys Hall, 516 Abercorn St., was built in 1870. It served as a residence through the early 1900s and was purchased by Savannah Broadcasting Co. in 1939. It served as the offices and studios of local CBS affiliate WTOC-TV for the next five decades. Keys Hall has housed SCAD's communications department since 1998.

Keys Hall, built in 1870

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The Savannah College of Art and Design has taken a leadership role in preserving historic Savannah, a city graced with one of the largest National Historic Landmark districts in the nation. Since its opening in 1979, the college has grown to occupy nearly 2 million square feet in more than 50 facilities throughout Savannah's historic and Victorian districts. Adaptive reuse of these remarkable structures has helped preserve an important part of Savannah while providing the college with unique facilities that serve as a living laboratory for the study of the arts, architecture and design.

In recognition of a continuing commitment to preserve Savannah's architectural heritage, the Savannah College of Art and Design was presented with a National Honor Award by the National Trust for Historic Preservation. The college also has been recognized by the Historic Savannah Foundation, the Georgia Trust for Historic Preservation, the Art Deco Societies of America, the International Downtown Association and the American Institute of Architects.

Some more examples:

American Hall Built in the late 1800s

7 Drayton St.

Construction began on this facility in 1860, with additions in 1895 and 1915 for the American Bank & Trust Co. Currently, the building houses student services, including health and wellness. The information management and technology department also is located here.

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Anderson Hall Built in 1896

412 E. Anderson St.

Designed by Gottfried L. Norrman as a blend of Classical and Colonial Revival styles, this 20,478-square-foot, two-story ornate red brick building sits atop a stone/granite foundation and originally served as Anderson Street School. Today it houses the foundation studies program, a curriculum of introductory drawing and design courses required of students in all majors.

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Charlton Hall Built in 1854

201 W. Charlton St.

Located on Pulaski Square, this former private residence and boarding house now serves as administrative offices.

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Clinard Hall Built in 1872

618 Drayton St.

Originally a private residence, this three-story stucco Italianate building features quoins, stone windowsills and caps. The south elevation has a two-story porch with graceful saw-work balustrades. The residence was converted to office space in 1981 by an insurance company and later became offices for a law firm. The building now houses the college's human resources department.

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Crites Hall Built in 1908

217 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.

This 17,000-square-foot facility formerly housed offices and storage space for Kahn & Co., a national linen distributor. Crites Hall now houses the media and performing arts department and features a scene shop, a dance studio, classrooms, a costume shop and the 150-seat black box Mondanaro Theater. General education and liberal arts classes also are taught here.

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Harris Hall Built in 1840

26 W. Harris St.

Built as a private residence, this 6,000-square-foot, two-story building was acquired by the college in 1983 and houses the office of the registrar and academic services departments.

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Henry Hall Built in 1892

115 W. Henry St.

Originally Henry Street School, Henry Hall was designed by William G. Preston and its construction was supervised by Gottfried L. Norrman. The three-story, 28,295-square-foot, red brick Queen Anne Revival style building features lavish terra cotta ornamentation, a gabled central pavilion and a monumental arched entrance. Henry Hall houses the fashion department.

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Kiah Hall Built in 1856

227 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd.

This three-story Greek Revival style building, with a design traditionally credited to Augustus Schwaab, features a Doric colonnade, portico ceiling paintings with a scalloped shell design, gold leaf and flower motifs, and a large ceiling medallion on the second floor. The structure was originally part of the Central of Georgia Railroad complex and housed administrative offices. The 16,968-square-foot building now houses the Earle W. Newton Center for British-American Studies, founded in 2001. Newton, a retired museum director, publisher and educator, made a donation of art, antiquarian books, maps and reference materials to form the core of the center's academic and research resources, including notable books, maps, prints and paintings from the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries.

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Lai Wa Hall Built in 1877

622 Drayton St.

Once the home of prominent Savannah financier and cotton broker Thomas M. Butler, this historic building was converted to offices for an insurance company in the early 1960s and later housed a law firm. Lai Wa Hall has a marble foyer, wrought iron staircase, 13-foot coffered ceilings, wood inlay floors, marble mantels and leaded glass windows. The symmetrical fa

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The shop will become an attraction in the rejuvenated Battlefield Park area.

Through the broken and vine-covered windows of the dilapidated coach shop at the Roundhouse Railroad Museum you can catch a glimpse of the future.

It's a gleaming new Savannah College of Art and Design dormitory at 701 W. Jones St.

It's a vision that Coastal Heritage Society Director Scott Smith hopes to duplicate in that very same shop.

The floors of the two-story shop, built in the 1920s to serve railroad cars of the Central of Georgia, are now covered with moss, water and debris.

But Smith sees them one day holding exhibits that will entertain and educate visitors from Savannah, the state, the nation and the world.

The 88,000-square-foot shop was big enough to house railroad cars needing repairs. Smith thinks it would be big enough to house items recovered from another Coastal Heritage Society property, the CSS Georgia, a Confederate ironclad currently sitting on the bottom of the Savannah River.

It might also be possible to relocate the Savannah History Museum there some day, Smith said.

It could also house a theater, a restaurant and a rest area. But Smith is being careful about committing to any specific purpose yet.

"There is a feeling within the society and within the community that whatever we do there must become a meaningful part of educating our youth," Smith said. "Just how we do that is still unclear."

The vision is much clearer for the shell of a building next to the coach shop. A state railroad museum will be housed there, said Stewart Dohrman, curator of buildings for CHS.

The original structure, built as a carpenter's shop around 1850, burned in 1923. It was reconfigured and rebuilt, then burned again, this time in the late 1980s.

Now, only the walls - propped up by wooden braces - and picturesque brick arches that once held up the floors, remain. CHS will rebuild the shop using both the 1850s and 1920s trusses.

"We have photos and drawings of the shop so we can do a faithful re-creation," Dohrman said.

Just off to the side of the carpenter's shop sits an old monument marking the Spring Hill Redoubt, site of a bloody Revolutionary War battle. The 7-foot-high monument once stood alongside adjacent Louisville Road, but was moved to the Roundhouse Railroad Museum in 2000, a victim of neglect.

The redoubt was a central point in the 1779 Siege of Savannah, and it will be a central element in a rejuvenated Battlefield Park commemorating that struggle.

Today, CHS and the city of Savannah plan to celebrate the completion of remediation work at the 9-acre Battlefield Park. The land just off Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard was purchased by the city last December, but years of burying coal ash at the old railway yard caused lead and arsenic contamination. City-contracted crews began cleaning up the site in April.

CHS will operate Battlefield Park, tying it in with the Roundhouse Railroad Museum and the Savannah History Museum.

"This brings everything together that we've been working on for the past 15 years," said Michael Jordan of CHS.

REDOUBTABLE ATTRACTION

Coastal Heritage Society Executive Director Scott Smith proudly points to the small model sitting on a table, a re-creation of a British redoubt or earthen defense work. This particular redoubt sat just off the present day intersection of Louisville Road and Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard.

On a foggy October morning almost 225 years ago, the redoubt was a strong point that couldn't be broken. French and American forces made five separate attacks on the redoubt on Oct. 9, 1779, the climax of the Siege of Savannah. The casualties in the 55-minute battle were horrific. Estimates vary from 700 to 1,500, Smith said.

A reconstructed redoubt, its specifications taken from a 1783 British field manual, will become a central point in a Battlefield Park to honor the sacrifices made there.

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