Morris Brown College announced it received an award from the National Park Service (NPS) Historically Black Colleges and Universities Grant Program to start the restoration of the historic Fountain Hall.
The restoration also includes two stained glass windows honoring Atlanta University’s Founder Reverend E. A. Ware and his wife Jane Twichwell Ware. Built in 1882, the then Stone Hall, was the third oldest building on the Atlanta University campus. The late Black intellectual, professor and author Dr. W.E.B. Du Bois’ office was in Fountain Hall. Legend has it he looked through the windows toward downtown Atlanta as he penned “The Souls of Black Folk (1903).” Du Bois also wrote “A Litany of Atlanta” (October, 1906) immediately following the 1906 Atlanta Race Massacre, which will commemorate the 115th Remembrance September 22-25, 2021.
Morris Brown College, the Friends of Fountain Hall, and the Atlanta Branch of Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASALH) will leverage the NPS HBCU grant to attract matching donations from the larger corporate community for a full accreditation campaign and the full window treatment.
“Fountain Hall is an iconic symbol of Morris Brown College,” Morris Brown College president Dr. Kevin James said. “I liken it to strength and perseverance. A historical landmark built in the 1882 by former slaves. People who have come through Morris Brown College are very familiar with Fountain Hall. They took classes there, they had chapel there, they joined fraternities and sororities in the building. Dr. W.E.B. Du Bois’ office was on the second floor so it’s historic in nature itself
“We could not restore the school without restoring that building,” he continued. “We’re just very very excited to be working with Dr. Tate and others raising money to restore the building. This next set of funds is to restore the windows, we just put a new roof on the building. We wanted to keep further deterioration from occurring so we put a new roof on just to seal it up. A new clock, a new bell, all of these things. We’re excited for the alumni to see that we’re making progress on that building and we’re very very excited about it.”
Morris Brown College also launched the Strong Tower Campaign which is designed to match the NPS grant and launched on Labor Day and plans to run through the end of Black History Month. The story of the clock tower remains a prominent building on the original campus of Atlanta University as it was constructed on a hill between Gaines Hall and South Hall, housing faculty offices, classrooms and a chapel.
“We will need the Fountain Hall for classrooms and academic services as we work toward full restoration,” James said in a press release. “We will continue our goal of fully restoring Fountain Hall.”
The building was transferred to Morris Brown College in the early 1930s and was then renamed from Stone Hall to Fountain Hall in honor of former college president Bishop William A. Fountain.
According to the website fountainhallatl.org, the tower had been boarded up and unused since 2003 and has since fallen victim to vandalism and intrusion of weather. Lack of upkeep has also resulted in a compromised structure and if it stays unattended it could fall victim to fire.
“The stained-glass windows gracing the Dr. Viola J. Hill Chapel area of Fountain Hall were a gift of an alumni class, and we look forward to being able to ‘have chapel’ services again, show films, and host lectures with the community in the space where Du Bois assembled leaders annually from 1896 – 1914, as he worked to find solutions at the Atlanta Conference of Negro Problems,” Dr. R. Candy Tate, author of the grant and chair of the Hallowed Grounds Committee of the Atlanta Branch of ASALH said in a press release.
The bell was planned to be struck to mark this phase of restoration but Dr. Tate says that the bell wasn’t struck but will be during Morris Brown’s Homecoming festivities.
Tate has managed to write enough successful grants to contribute $1.5 million to the cause with three grants.
“It’s the whole building,” Tate said. This third grant is to replace the windows and the stained glass windows in the chapel have dedicated windows to E.A. Ware and his wife Jane who were both white missionaries from Yale who came to start Atlanta University. This is our history and progress in Atlanta of this city too busy to Hate shows whites and Blacks working together. In the segregated south, this experiment of education happened on these hallowed grounds.”
Fundraising for the total restoration, estimated at $30M, are ongoing.
“HBCUs have been an important part of the American education system for more than 180 years, providing high-level academics, opportunities, and community for generations of students,” NPS Deputy Director Shawn Benge said in a press release. “The National Park Service’s Historically Black Colleges and Universities Grant Program provides assistance to preserve noteworthy structures that honor the past and tell the ongoing story of these historic institutions.”