Georgia Military College officials and friends of the school gathered Wednesday morning to celebrate the completion of extensive work done to modernize historic Jenkins Hall.
The building is approaching the century mark in its life. It was opened as City Elementary School in 1926, before being purchased by GMC. The prep school moved out of the building completely in 2010 once Usery Hall was completed, but the recent addition of third, fourth, and fifth grades meant more space was needed. GMC Prep turned to the nearly 100-year-old building but knew extensive work would need to be done for it to house the school’s youngest population. After procuring state funding for the project and over a year’s worth of work, Jenkins Hall is now ready to reopen as GMC Prep’s elementary grades are scheduled to move into the building’s 10 classrooms on Nov. 4. The project cost came to about $5 million, according to GMC VP for engineering Jeff Gray.
GMC Prep and the Milledgeville-Baldwin County Chamber of Commerce hosted a ribbon cutting Wednesday to celebrate Jenkins Hall’s new beginning and show the space off to the public.
“This marks the growth of a steadfast and vital educational institution that Milledgeville-Baldwin County is proud to have, and it’s a growth of the largest economic driver in our community, which is education,” said Angie Martin, president and CEO of the local Chamber.
Among the updates made to the more than 18,000-foot Jenkins Hall was bringing it up to present-day safety codes by adding new fire alarms and sprinkler systems. Security was also a priority as building lockdown mechanisms have been implemented and cameras installed. Cosmetically, the wooden floors in the hallways have been restored and the exterior windows have been returned to their initial large size, letting more sunlight into the classrooms than they have seen in a long time. GMC worked closely with the Georgia Historic Preservation Division, a division of the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, in doing the work on the historic building.
For GMC Prep Principal Col. Pam Grant, the restoration of Jenkins Hall is very personal. Grant, who is in her 34th year working at the school, taught her very first class inside the building situated on the southwest corner of the Old Capitol Square.
“For me, it all began right here at Jenkins Hall,” Grant said in her remarks before cutting the ribbon herself. “The difference between Jenkins Hall now and then is nothing short of miraculous… Each of us can recall times in our lives that we know we will never forget. Today, as I come full-circle back to the place where I taught my very first group of students, is certainly one of those days for me.”
Grant was followed by dignitaries Dr. David Crass, director of the state Historic Preservation Division, and state Rep. Rick Williams who represents the state’s 145th district at the Capitol in Atlanta. While their remarks did carry some weight, it was GMC Board of Trustees Chairman Randy New who provided the line of the day.
“I wish I could find the person that coined the phrase ‘you can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear.’ If they saw this they would take it back,” he said, drawing a laugh from Wednesday’s crowd.
At its north end, Jenkins Hall now ties directly into the GMC Prep annex that the school opened at the start of this school year. The annex housed the elementary grades while work on Jenkins was still being done. Now, the annex will serve its full-time purpose as it was built to provide more space for the prep school.