Students at South Georgia College (SGA), Douglas, Ga., got a new perspective last fall with a campus expansion that added a new 252-bed residence hall and student life center. Previously, the college's symmetrical layout began at its historic entrance at one end and ended at an old gymnasium–Clower Hall – at the other. The ambitious $11 million improvement project extended these boundaries and created a vibrant new focal point for student activity.

Tiger Village is the new U-shaped residence hall located south of Clower Hall, creating a tranquil courtyard. Eagle Masonry Services, Atlanta, Ga., was the contractor hired to create the dorm's two-tone buff brick façade that ties in with virtually all the other buildings on SGC's campus. The job included building brick columns at the dorm's entrance on the courtyard side and large masonry arched windows at the lobby entrance that mirror Clower Hall's historic window openings. Additional brick accents break down the scale of the 77,000-sq-ft, three-story building.

Eagle's work on Clower Hall was less straightforward. Originally built in 1936, Clower served as SGC's gymnasium until it was replaced in the 1960s and the original space was used for other purposes, such as storage. Although there was an existing student union building on campus, its recreational space had been lost over time due to expanding student services, and there was a strong need for a true activities center.

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Architects Lord, Aeck & Sargent planned to transform the original building into the Clower Student Life Center. The architect preserved the character of the old gymnasium while giving the building a second life by making the space functional for a variety of student needs. Its design included replacing an obsolete service block at the back of the building with a new entrance, and adding a large recreational porch facing the courtyard.

Since this renovation involved historic restoration, Eagle Masonry faced the added challenge of matching new brick and mortar with the building's existing materials. On the courtyard side, masons added 14 new brick columns to frame the large porch and replaced the brick façade. The mason contractor also did interior and exterior patchwork where the old brick had been damaged over time.

Fortunately, Eagle's 10-years experience, including several other historic restoration jobs, had prepared them. “We knew right away that we wouldn't find the same brick,” said Francisco Martinez, Jr., Eagle's project manager, “but we knew the steps to take for matching it.” Together with the project manager from the general contractor – Juneau Construction – Martinez took samples of the historic brick to local masonry suppliers until they found a suitable substitute.

They chose a concrete brick from Georgia Masonry Supply, with the right size and “aged” texture. Although it was not the same color as Clower Hall's original buff tones, the masons decided it would provide the right look. “Matching the color of a brick can be hard,” explained Martinez, “but the texture can be the most problematic.” After Eagle installed the new brick, a staining contractor applied the color.

Finding a matching mortar was a simpler task. Lafarge created a special mix to match a sample of historic mortar from the gymnasium.

Contractors restored the gym's original character inside with additional renovations, including refinishing and repainting the hardwood floors, removing a drop ceiling to reveal beams and terra cotta brick, and installing gymnasium-style lighting fixtures. Acoustical walls subdivide the space into defined areas for lounging, studying, and socializing, such as the Center Court Café near the old gym's center court lines.

Jim Cottingham, SGC's vice president of student affairs, is pleased with the end result. He described the new student center as, “a highly functional and useful facility that celebrates the college's rich past while addressing its present needs.”

Project Participants

  • Masonry Contractor: Eagle Masonry Services, Atlanta, Ga.
  • General Contractor: Juneau Construction Co., Atlanta, Ga.
  • Architect: Lord, Aeck & Sargent Inc., Atlanta, Ga.
  • Masonry Suppliers: Boral Brick, Atlanta, Ga.; Georgia Masonry Supply, Atlanta, Ga.; Lafarge, Atlanta, Ga.