SCAD Norris Hall
Norris Hall was originally built in 1858, as the Abrahams Home for elderly widows of Savannah. The 14,040 square foot home was designed by the famed New York Architect, John S. Norris, in the Greek revival style. As a charitable institution, the 3-story building was deliberately plain in its appearance. The exterior is highlighted by a central pediment and enclosed garden. The interior featured numerous fireplaces for the comfort of its residents. The facility functioned as a boarding house for over 100 years, run by the Savannah Widows Society, which was established in 1822. It was the oldest operating foundation in Georgia in 1984 when the home was closed.
In 1989, the building at 548 East Broughton Street was vacant, when it was purchased by the Savannah College of Art and Design. It was named Norris Hall as a tribute to the architect who designed it. At first the building was used by SCAD as classrooms, most recently for the sequential art program. Then in 2013, the school sought to repurpose the interior in order to house their International Student Services and Study Abroad programs. For this reason, portions of the interior design make reference to travel, international studies, and exploration. Students from approximately 100 countries attend SCAD to take advantage of the unique learning environment offered. Such diversity contributes greatly to culture of SCAD and the surrounding community.
In order to update the building for its contemporary use while maintaining historic character, extensive renovation was necessary. The existing mechanical and electrical systems were completely replaced. The restrooms were refurbished to be code compliant. New wood trim was affixed at the main stair and entry lobby. There were also new floor and ceiling finishes added throughout the building.
The exterior restoration of the building has made a distinct aesthetic improvement to the less vibrant East end of Broughton Street. There was a fair amount of repair required to the stucco cladding on the masonry walls. The project also included window repair and exterior painting to create a cleaner, more refined appearance. Additionally, repairs to the exterior stairs were made to ensure code compliance.
The rear courtyard of the building underwent a total makeover as well. The area had been overgrown and unkempt. A fresh landscape design created a new outdoor event space for students. Within the courtyard, there was an abandoned brick outbuilding with a deteriorating roof structure and walls. It was stabilized and now serves as a small outdoor catering kitchen. The courtyard has become a pleasant and functional leisure space for the students to enjoy.
Over the years, SCAD has greatly contributed to the revitalization of Historic downtown Savannah. The College has been recognized by the National Trust for Historic Preservation, the State of Georgia, the Art Deco Societies of America and the Historic Savannah Foundation for its many preservation projects. Norris Hall is yet another rehabilitation that impacts, not only the school, but the surrounding community of the beautiful Historic Savannah.