Brittany D. McClure
The Valdosta Daily Times
Representatives from the University System of Georgia, local legislators, members of the community and Valdosta State University faculty and staff turned out Monday afternoon for the ribbon cutting ceremony officially introducing the newly restored Ashley Hall.
“Today is really pretty special,” said VSU president Dr. Bill McKinney.
Ashley Hall was originally built in 1921 and was the third building constructed on the campus following Converse and West Hall. It was named for the honorable C.R. Ashley, who was on VSU’s Board of Trustees and served as mayor of Valdosta from 1900 to 1904.
The building has undergone many renovations but this was the first official restoration to date. The $5.5 million project took two years to complete.
“This building serves to remind us, to bind us to our history,” said McKinney.
Architectural firm Altman and Barrett spent two years on the delicate restoration that took a great deal of research before the plans could even be started. The goal from the beginning was not to renovate, but rather to restore the building to its original and historic state.
“It was different than a regular project,” said architect Walter Altman."We used 99.5 percent of everything that was here.”
As was true for many, this project was a particular labor of love for Altman as his mother Jackie Altman, who attended the ribbon cutting, lived in the hall in 1965 while she attended VSU.
The restoration of Ashley Hall means so many things to so many people.
For Valdosta Mayor John Gayle, the building brought him back to his younger years as a student at VSU.
“I actually had some dates with some girls that were living in this dorm,” said Gayle as he joked with the crowd.
While many in attendance remembered the days that Ashley Hall was the only girls dormitory on campus, the building has seen a dramatic transformation from dorms to student apartments and then to finally administrative and faculty offices. Today, it is home to the departments of history and philosophy and religious studies.
“The faculty who will be living in these spaces are very, very grateful to
you,” said interim vice president for academic affairs Dr. Karla Hull.
After the ribbon was officially cut, guests ventured inside to see the transformation first hand.
Paint had been stripped to reveal the original woodwork, the chandelier in the entryway was removed and in its place a duplicate of the original skylight was built, and all the offices had been newly furnished with furniture to fit the antique and historic environment of the hall. A fireplace in one of the currently unclaimed offices had even been discovered after a few built-in walls were removed.
Hung throughout the walls of the building are old pictures of the hall and even a few blueprints.
As noted by McKinney, the hall was truly a celebration of VSU’s past while looking forward to the future.