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Court rulings to revert Gaines Hall to Clark Atlanta could help save ailing 1860s structure

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Burned-out property, dating back to postbellum Atlanta, is still in need of serious love, years after the flames.

A classical brick building, scarred by fire.
The heavily damaged shell of historic Gaines Hall.
Atlanta Preservation Center

Clark Atlanta University has won a legal battle against the City of Atlanta and Friendship Baptist Church centered on historic (and crumbling) Gaines Hall.

Built in 1869, the three-story brick building played host to W.E.B. DuBois when he spent time educating Atlanta's African-American population in the Jim Crow era.

In more recent years, the property—which had originally belonged to Clark Atlanta—housed dormitories for Morris Brown College.

When the college nearly went bankrupt, the City of Atlanta and Friendship Baptist Church bought the property and other surrounding buildings for $14.6 million. However, a fire in 2015 left the building exposed to the elements and at risk of demolition.

Clark Atlanta University has since challenged the sale of the building, winning both the initial court battle and a subsequent appeal lodged by the city, according to Saporta Report.

The claim hinges on a 1940s agreement that the land and buildings would revert back to Clark Atlanta University should Morris Brown College no longer utilize them for academic purposes.

Following the court decisions, it seems there’s a good chance Clark Atlanta could reclaim possession of the properties—however, the process for that is not made clear by the ruling.

Hopefully, the verdict spells brighter days ahead for Gaines Hall, a historic treasure.