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Dec. 10, 2012

Mid-20th Century Military Barracks Restored in North Georgia

By Jeffrey Steele, Contributing Writer

Dahlonega, Ga.—In planning a new “military education precinct” for the center of their campus, administrators at North Georgia College & State University had slated historic Gaillard Hall, built in the early 1950s, for demolition.

But Atlanta architectural firm Lord, Aeck & Sargent (LAS), which led the historic preservation of North Georgia’s campus master plan, convinced the institution to save, restore and rehabilitate the structure. That $5.6 million endeavor was the final project in a $59.85 million, two-phase public/private venture that included six new buildings and a cadet formation plaza, all designed by LAS.

“There were two existing residence halls on campus,” one of them Gaillard Hall, LAS president Joe Greco tells MHN. “The other was slightly newer, but nowhere near as significant architecturally. We served as the preservation planners on the master planning team, and through that process working with the state Board of Regents and the college, we came to the conclusion this residence hall was worth preserving. This is subjective, but it’s a very well-designed building, and their only example from that mid-century era. This was, oddly enough, designed by the predecessor [architectural firm] of Lord, Aeck & Sargent.”

When built in the Truman era, Gaillard Hall was anything but an extravagant design. It wasn‘t air conditioned, and the fire safety and data-cabling infrastructure taken for granted these days was still decades from realization.

“The building was originally designed extremely efficiently, with very shallow floor-to-ceiling heights of about eight feet, eight inches,” Greco says. “That posed significant hurdles in running sprinkler lines, new data cables and HVAC. We used an innovative design strategy, running our sprinkler lines and data cabling on a kind of suspended soffit in a different color and material, denoting it’s not part of the original structure, incorporated into the lighting system along the corridors. Inside the rooms, we have a lower soffit in the foyer, allowing us to retain the full height of the windows in each residence.”

The building’s exterior, still in good shape, nonetheless needed some repair.

Attention to the historically significant window system was a major focus.

“We replaced all the residential windows,” Greco says. “In the signature room right in the center of the building, the original steel window system framing was intact. We restored and reinforced that framing, and installed insulating glass.”

In addition to being an excellent mid-century architectural example, Gaillard Hall’s presence, overlooking the campus drill field, is very powerful, Greco adds.

“It’s very strongly connected to the campus history and tradition. The building serves as the original anchor in a new military housing district, all in the vicinity of the drill field, creating a kind of gathering space for the military students.”

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