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The Old College Compendium

At the Edge of Extinction, 1900-1908

Pre 1908As the 20th century began Old College was showing its age, and it was clear that the building would have to be radically rebuilt or remodeled.

Perhaps an even greater threat than age was the vision of Chancellor Walter B. Hill, who planned for a much expanded University of Georgia. Landscape planner Charles W. Leavitt, Jr., of New York City created a master plan for developing the campus which removed Old College to provide a sweeping vista through north campus from Broad Street. In the segment of the plan below, the present Admininstration Building is indicated by the number nine, the Chapel is number six and the site of the Ilah Dunlap Little Library is occupied by the footprint of a much larger chapel building, numbered fifteen.

1905 Master Plan
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The idea of a central drive or vista seems to predate the Leavitt plan. In 1902 a bizarre remodeling suggestion was offered that would have added buttresses and massive north and south walls to support the building. To provide for a central campus drive or vista, a low-arched Gothic tunnel was to be plowed through the center of Old College, turning it into a Federal-Gothic hybrid. It is rumoured that sensitive students of historic preservation wake up screaming for weeks after viewing this drawing.

Gothic Old College
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In an undated news clipping from the Georgia Room vertical file on Old College, University Professor of Engineering, Charles Strahan, suggests that the whole building should be taken down and rebuilt with new brick (but not Gothic details) on Lumpkin Street, in the vicinity of Denmark Hall and todays' Founder's Garden.

Whatever the solution, a careful assessment in 1907 by Athens City Engineer J. W. Barnett revealed the critical nature of Old College's ills. Accompanying this letter was the blueprint of the ground floor of the building shown earlier in our section on planning Old College.

1908 Sanborn Fire Atlas
"Old and Vacant" in the 1908

Around the time of the building's 100th birthday in 1906, students were removed because of unsafe conditions and Athen's oldest building received the doleful annotation "Old and Vacant" in the 1908 Sanborn Fire Atlas map of the campus, shown below. More Sanborn maps of Athens and Georgia can be viewed through the Digital Library of Georgia.

1908 BroadsideHelp was on the way for Old College, however, led by Summey House boys such as Tom Reed and other alumni. A glossy broadside was issued to rally support and the 1908 Pandora yearbook stirred sentiment with a poem by the Senior Law Class Poet, Charles Napoleon Feidelson.

To Old College by Charles Charles Napoleon Feidelson. Thou’rt crumbling ‘neath the heavy weight, Old College, of a hundred years: Storm-beaten, gray, and desolate, Thou tremblest as the dread end nears The Ivy scarcely serves to hide The rents which time hath wrought in thee; And in thy aspect doth abide A look of sad anxiety. How many stories couldst thou tell Of the sweet past, and lovelier days; Of youth, caught by ambitions spell, Of hope, felt in a thousand ways? In they dull rooms, the future great Have knowledge sought, and learning found; And voices that have swayed the State Have tried on thee their boyish sound. The wind they requiem oft tolls; They corridors and halls are still; But thou art fair to those true souls Who love thee now, and always will.

In the end, historical presevation, broadsides and poetry triumphed as the decision was made to rebuild the outside walls of Old College with new brick and morter, giving it a new lease on life (as well as sanitary plumbing). As can be seen in Nash Boney's Pictorial History of the University of Georgia, the floors were propped up by poles and the entire outer walls were removed and replaced in the same pattern as the original brick. One conspicuous exception was the replacement of the original circular attic vents with diamond shaped ventilators.

 

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