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UGA's Rutherford Hall Slated for Demolition?

The historic University of Georgia residence hall may soon be reduced to rubble.

Helen Fosgate transferred from Berry College to the in 1978. She wanted to live with older students, not freshmen in Creswell, and she wanted to live in a manageable building, not a highrise.

So she chose Rutherford, an all-woman residence hall on the Myers Quadrangle. The building’s H-shape made interacting with other people easy, if not unavoidable. All the women who lived there knew each other to some degree, Fosgate said.

“The architecture of the building created a sense of community,” she said. “It was a great choice for me because of its modest size.”

Built in 1939 by the Works Progress Administration, Rutherford Hall has served as a residence hall for decades. But the historic brick building on South Campus may be seeing its last days on campus.

In documents sent to State Historic Preservation Division of the Department of Natural Resources, the UGA Office of University Architects shared its plans to demolish Rutherford Hall and replace it with a new building. This new "contextural" structure will resemble Rutherford but it won’t share the systemic problems of the older building.

Problems?

The biggest problem is the building’s placement, said Jim Day, who served as head of University Housing for years, retiring in 2006. Rutherford is partially underground, and this placement has for years created chronic problems with moisture and black mold. Adding more drainage measures and waterproofing the foundation helped a little, he said, but this did not eliminate the problem.

The 1930s pipes that provided steam heat to the ground floor eventually wore out, and were replaced with less efficient electric heat, Day said  Plans were drawn in the early 2000s to renovate and expand Rutherford in a residential college, Day said, even though the narrow hallways and window placements made renovating it very complicated.

“The project got canceled,” Day said. “We just couldn’t make the financing work. We spent about five years working on it, and I know they’ve been working on ever since I retired.”

Architect Danny Sniff, UGA’s associate vice president for facilities, said his office has asked state officials for authorization to hire an architect of record to deal with Rutherford. His staff and he have been studying the building for four years, trying to figure out a way to make the cost of renovation work with the number of beds -- and thus, paying students -- the facility would contain.

The Historic Preservation Division of the Georgia Department of Natural Resources told UGA officials that "in light of the agreed upon historical significance of the Rutherford Hall building, it is our opinion that demolition of this historic building is not justified."

In his letter to UGA architect Paul Cassilly, Dr. David Crass, deputy State Historic Preservation Officer, said that demolishing Rutherford will have a significant impact to the other 1930s buildings in the quadrangle, Mary Lyndon and Myers halls.

Amy Kissane, director of the , a local preservation group, said Rutherford ia "an archecturally and historically significant building. I'd like to see it saved and I hope it can be saved."

When Helen Fosgate heard that UGA was likely to demolish the historic building, Fosgate, now editor of Research magazine, said she felt her stomach tighten with nausea.

“They’ve renovated or repaired the other buildings in that quad, why can’t they fix the problems in Rutherford?” she said. “Why tear it down? This is a great, historic building that created a sense of community for thousands of women.”

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