Designated: Landmark Building Exterior
643 Martin Luther King, Jr. Drive
Erected in 1882 on the crest of Diamond Hill on the Morris Brown College campus, Fountain Hall is one of the earlier structures for the original site of Atlanta University. Historically, Fountain Hall is significant to the city, state, and nation for its role in providing higher education to blacks in this country. It was for this reason that Fountain Hall was made a National Historic Landmark in 1975. Architecturally, this building is important as a work of G. L. Norrman. This Atlanta architect was active during the late nineteenth and very early twentieth centuries, but few of his works have survived. The three-story, red brick structure is also an excellent example of the High Victorian style, its clock tower a rare sight in Atlanta. Over its one hundred seven-year history, Fountain Hall has served as the location for administrative offices, as well as a number of other university activities, contributing greatly to the cultural fabric of the city through the education of its citizens.
ATLANTA UNIVERSITY CENTER
The Atlanta University Center is an academic complex which includes Atlanta University, Clark, Morehouse, Morris Brown, and Spelman Colleges, and the Interdenominational Theological Center. All the institutions except the Theological Center were founded in a twenty-year period immediately following the Civil War with financial assistance from mission societies from the North. These religious groups sought to provide improved education for blacks in the South.
Nineteenth-century educator, Edmund Asa Ware, dreamed of establishing a centrally located university to train talented black youths, educate teachers, and disseminate information to the masses. With financial support from the American Missionary Association and the Freedman's Bureau, Ware oversaw the founding of Atlanta University in 1865.
The University was chartered in 1867 and formally opened its doors in 1869 with the construction of its first new building in the Diamond Hill area just west of Atlanta's downtown. North Hall served all the functions of the institution until a second structure, South Hall, was built the following year, providing space for a boys' dormitory, classrooms, and religious services. In 1882, through a gift from the estate of Valerie G. Stone of Malden, Mass., the University erected an administration building. Stone Hall (later re-named Fountain Hall) was the center for the scholastic work of the institution, as well as a site for a chapel. By 1900, the university included an industrial and manual arts building for boys and a domestic science cottage for girls. The Oglethorpe School was added to the campus in 1904, giving new teachers practical teaching experience. Through a generous contribution from Andrew Carnegie, Atlanta University built a library building the following year.
While Atlanta University was getting on its feet, other black institutions of higher learning were also being established in Atlanta. Morehouse College was actually begun as the Augusta Institute in 1867 in Augusta, Georgia. Upon moving to Atlanta in 1869, the Institute became the Atlanta Baptist Seminary, housed in the basement of the Friendship Baptist Church. In 1888 the school moved to its present location neighboring Atlanta University. It became Morehouse College in 1913. Clark College opened in 1869 in a room in the Clark Chapel Methodist Episcopal Church, under the sponsorship of the church. In 1877, the college acquired a 450-acre site in south Atlanta where it remained until 1941, when it joined the Atlanta University system.
Spelman College began as the Atlanta Baptist Female Seminary in 1881, and like Morehouse, opened in the basement of the Friendship Baptist Church. The all-female school was sponsored by the Women's American Baptist Home Missionary Society, and in 1883 the institution moved to nine acres of its present site in west Atlanta. One year later, the school was named Spelman College in honor of Laura G. Spelman Rockefeller, wife of the school's benefactor, John D. Rockefeller.
Morris Brown College had been proposed as early as 1881 by Stewart Wiley at the North Georgia Conference of the African Methodist Episcopal Church. The college was granted its charter in 1885, and its first building was constructed at the corner of Houston Street and Boulevard that same year. Morris Brown moved to the original Atlanta University campus in 1932.
All of the colleges mentioned above had the same goal--to provide strong, academic opportunities for their students. In the 1920s, three of these institutions sat side by side. In 1929 Atlanta University proposed a plan to improve the quality of education in each school and save money by the joint use of facilities and personnel. An affiliation was created. Spelman and Morehouse Colleges agreed to maintain undergraduate programs, while Atlanta University discontinued its undergraduate coursework and offered only graduate degrees.
In the early 1930s, Morris Brown College was in financial trouble and was forced to give up its property at Houston and Boulevard. Since its affiliation with Spelman and Morehouse, Atlanta University was no longer using several of its original buildings. So In 1932, Bishop W. A. Fountain, former college president and then Chairman of the Board of Trustees, and his son, W. A. Fountain, Jr., President of Morris Brown, negotiated for the college to become part of the university system and lease some of the vacant buildings on the old campus. It was after this, that Stone Hall became known as Fountain Hall, named for Bishop William A. Fountain. In the 1940s, the college purchased the buildings, establishing a permanent home for Morris Brown College.
The most recent addition to the Atlanta University Center is the Interdenominational Theological Center (ITC). Under a plan in 1956, the Morehouse School of Religion, Gammon Theological Seminary, Turner Theological Seminary, and Phillips School of Theology joined together to form the center. In 1957 the ITC was established on its present ten-acre site just south of Morris Brown. Since 1957, the Absalom Jones Theological Institute, Johnson C. Smith Seminary, and Charles H. Mason Theological Seminary have joined the ITC.
The significance of Atlanta University Center rests in the quality of its leaders, its faculty, and its graduates. Edmund Asa Ware was Atlanta University's spiritual and intellectual father. His dedication to academic excellence and rejection of racial inferiority influenced other black colleges and American education in general. John Hope, former Morehouse president and Atlanta University's first black president, is noted in every history of American education during the first half of this century. Atlanta University's most famous faculty member (1897-1910) was W. E. B. DuBois, who began the Atlanta Studies on Negro Sociology and later became the director of publications for the N.A.A.C.P.
The Center's schools have produced a long list of alumni whose contributions to American life have extended beyond the city or region. Among the outstanding are: James Weldon Johnson, poet and writer; Walter White, N.A.A.C.P. crusader for minority rights; Grace Towns Hamilton, the first black woman to serve in the Georgia legislature; Martin Luther King, Jr., Nobel Peace Prize winner and civil rights leader; Matwilda Dobbs, opera singer; and Maynard H. Jackson, Jr., Atlanta's first black mayor.
The Atlanta University Center is significant as the location of a group of the country's major institutions of higher learning for black Americans. The institutions comprising the center have not only pioneered educational opportunities for blacks, but have been a strong force in the development of a viable and progressive black community in the city of Atlanta, which has had considerable impact on the nation as a whole.
FOUNTAIN (STONE) HALL
Morris Brown College is located on the elevated Diamond Hill site at the northern end of the Atlanta University Center. Fountain Hall faces east and sits above Martin Luther King, Jr. Drive, which runs along its north wall. A small parking lot is adjacent to the south wall. The building fronts a park-like setting with lawns, curved and linear walkways, benches, and large oak and pecan trees.
The three-story, High Victorian building is symmetrical in plan, rectangular in shape, and is topped with a hipped roof. A square tower with a two-staged pyramidal roof extends up from the structure's central bay. Romanesque Revival elements can be observed in the centrally placed round arched entranceway. Three similar, but smaller arches puncture the front facade of the tower's upper story, while pairs of these same arches line the north and south facades of the clock tower. The tower contains a clock which still appears to be keeping accurate time. White, stone lintels, sills, and string courses contrast the otherwise red brick building. Elaborate brick detailing on the third story and central bay enlivens the surface of all four facades.
The windows are six over six throughout, and are paired on the second and third stories of the front facade. Those windows on the north and south walls are longer, appearing to be narrower. An extremely long, narrow stained glass window with a floral motif is present on each side wall, illuminating the chapel inside.
Since little or no exterior alterations have been made, Fountain Hall looks much as it did in the late nineteenth century. It has maintained a high degree of architectural integrity, exhibiting its original character-defining elements and craftsmanship.
A native of Sweden, educated at the University of Copenhagen and at a German technical university, Norrman came to Atlanta after serving in the Swedish merchant marine and traveling in the American South. He designed several structures for the international expositions held in Atlanta in 1881 and 1887. His building ranged in style from Gothic and Romanesque Revival through exotic Middle Eastern fantasies, to Queen Anne and the Shingle styles.
Although he was a prolific designer in Atlanta from 1880 to 1909, few of his works are extant today. Besides the exposition buildings, Norrman designed the Gate City National Bank, Hebrew Orphanage, Saint Luke's Episcopal Church, Peters' residence (now the Mansion Restaurant), Southern Bell Telephone and Telegraph Building, and the William Alanson Gregg residence, to name a few. All but the Peters' residence have been demolished and replaced by more recent structures, thus contributing to the significance of Fountain Hall to the city.
From its construction in 1882 until 1929, Fountain Hall primarily functioned as the administration building for Atlanta University, though it contained a chapel, library, recitation rooms, and laboratories during various times in its history. It served in a similar capacity for Morris Brown College for many years. Currently, the structure contains offices, a chapel, art studios, and a gallery. Fountain Hall has been a gathering place and focus of activity in the education process of many of the mostly black Americans attending the university and college since its construction. Because of the building's location, Fountain Hall can be seen from some distance and has long served as an impressive and identifying landmark for the historic Atlanta University Center.
Adams, Myron W. A History of Atlanta University. Atlanta: Atlanta University Press, 1930.
Jensen, Viola L. "Higher Education for Negroes in Atlanta." Atlanta Historical Bulletin Vol. VIII (October 1948): 107-111.
Lyon, Elizabeth. Atlanta Architecture: The Victorian Heritage, 1837-1918. Atlanta: Atlanta Historical Society, Inc., 1976.
National Register of Historic Places Inventory Nomination Form prepared by Dr. Elizabeth A. Lyon, Consultant, and Dan Durrett, Research Assistant, AUDC, 1975.
National Register of Historic Places Inventory Nomination Form for National Historic Landmark prepared for James Sheire, Historian, NPS, 1974.
Sewell, George A. and Cornelius V. Troup. Morris Brown College: The First Hundred Years. Atlanta: Morris Brown College, 1981.
Group I (1) (2) (3)
The proposed nomination of Fountain Hall meets the above-referenced criteria for a Landmark Building or Site as set out in Section 16-20.004 of the Code of Ordinances of the City of Atlanta.