Wes Wooten wants to spruce up a bit of Atlanta’s history.
The Decatur resident and University of Georgia graduate will lead a team of 20 or so volunteers from 10 a.m. to3 p.m. on Saturday to clean up historic Fountain Hall on the Morris Brown College campus.
"I learned about the comeback the college was making and it was hard not be be inspired," said Wooten, 28, a middle school counselor."It' really a beautiful place. I just considered this to be a monument in the city of Atlanta and I didn't think a monument needed to be treated like a landfield."
Wooten was so impressed with the history of Morris Brown that he reached out to President Stanley Pritchett. The two developed a good relationship and Wooten began spending time in and around campus picking up trash and doing what he could to help return it to its former glory.
He said when Pritchett asked if he would like to help clean up Fountain Hall "it was like music to my ears. I've been waiting to get my hands on that building. It's one of Atlanta's oldest buildings. I just believe its integrity should be restored."
The three-story red-brick building, designed by architect G.L. Norman, was built in 1882 on the rise of Diamond Hill, according to the city of Atlanta.
It was initially called Stone Hall, but it’s name was changed when it was acquired from Atlanta University by Morris Brown. It became a National Historic Landmark in 1975
It was last used 13 years ago to house administrative offices, classrooms, an auditorium and was once the location of W.E.B. DuBois’ office.
Over time, the building eventually fell dormant after the historically black college filed for bankruptcy and lost its accreditation. The number of students and faculty dropped dramatically. Some of its buildings were sold to pay off debt and the school emerged from bankruptcy.
At its height enrolled between 2,800 and 3,000 students. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution could not determine how many students are currently enrolled.
Morris Brown President Stanley Pritchett is solidly behind the effort.
“We’re trying to bring attention to the community that we are still working toward getting the college back to its position of being a preeminent institution of higher learning,” he said.
The building, he said, is structurally sound but has been vandalized over time and hurt by the ravages of time and lack of use. Ceiling tiles need to be replace. Paint is peeling. There’s broken glass and other signs of vandals, who “trashed it.”
Some clean up work has been done, but much more remains.
“We want to make certain the building is as clean as it can be so it can be revitalized,” Pritchett said. He also hopes the Saturday project will inspire others to “roll up their sleeves and see what needs to be done.”
For Wooten, to see Fountain Hall now, compared to photos he has seen from its past is “heartbreaking. The vandalism is utterly disrespectful.”
He’s inviting others to join in the cleanup initiative.
“I think if the city of Atlanta is going to progress, we have to realize that we can’t let certain sectors progress while others fall behind.”
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