Gaines Hall, formerly a dormitory at Morris Brown College, is in peril. On Thursday, a late-night fire tore through the historic building where such luminaries as W.E.B. DuBois spent time educating Atlanta's African American population in the Jim Crow era. One of the oldest buildings in Atlanta — built just four years after the Civil War in 1869 — it served as a dormitory until four years ago when the college went through restructuring following academic and economic turmoil. Gaines Hall was purchased within the last year by Invest Atlanta, the city's economic development arm, in a deal that included 26 acres of land, too. Now it's up to the city to step up and save the building from destruction following the fire.
An announcement by the Atlanta Fire Department that the building should be torn down elicited vocal reactions from both the Georgia Trust for Historic Preservation and the Atlanta History Center. In a statement obtained by the Saporta Report, the Georgia Trust states "the building truly has national significance as a symbol of triumph over the subjugation of African Americans by institution of slavery." While the fire was no doubt a significant setback in the building's preservation, if the city can find a way to quickly fortify the remains, some believe there's potential for reuse of the structure's shell with a new purpose-built interior.