Historic Savannah Foundation, a preservation organization committed to protecting the heritage of Savannah, GA, has awarded the Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) a Preservation Award for its rehabilitation of the Clarence Thomas Center.
“These awards are very competitive and recognize the gold standard of preservation work,” said Daniel Carey, president and CEO of Historic Savannah Foundation. “They also offer an opportunity to inform the public about what to emulate. We put forth these winners as examples to follow so that other projects aspire to this high standard.”
Historic Savannah Foundation Preservation Awards recognize outstanding local projects completed within the last three years based on quality, degree of difficulty and the ultimate positive impact the project has on the surrounding community. The awards are judged for the success they have achieved in the preservation, rehabilitation, restoration and interpretation of architectural and cultural heritage.
In January 2010, SCAD opened its historic preservation department’s new home, the Clarence Thomas Center for Historic Preservation, which stands adjacent to the grammar school where Savannah native U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas attended as a child. The church and school were staffed by the Franciscan Sisters of the Immaculate Conception, who came to Savannah in the early twentieth century to work with the African American community. Their adjacent convent, constructed in 1908, closed nearly 40 years ago, but not before Justice Thomas acquired many of his earliest ideas and beliefs about justice, equality and the importance of education from the sisters.
SCAD purchased the dilapidated property in the 1990s and fully restored the Greek Revival-style structure to serve as the home of its world-renowned historic preservation program. The facility includes an intimate lecture hall, formerly the convent chapel, in which talks by prominent scholars and preservationists take place. The building also contains a state-of-the-art conservation laboratory and separate restoration workshop, drafting classrooms, lecture classrooms and exhibition spaces for SCAD artwork and architectural artifacts. SCAD’s Clarence Thomas Center for Historic Preservation also houses the university’s outreach programs in historic preservation, where students and faculty work to advance the restoration, adaptive reuse and sustainability of historic buildings—both nationally and internationally.
SCAD has been recognized for more than 100 historic buildings rehabilitated in the United States and France. The university has received a National Honor Award from the National Trust for Historic Preservation, multiple preservation awards from the Georgia Trust for Historic Preservation and Historic Savannah Foundation, and has been recognized for its work in historic preservation from the National Park Service, International Downtown Association and others. Many of the university’s buildings are of such esteemed architectural and historical significance as to be on the National Register of Historic Places.