The Campus Master Plan and facility inventory was commissioned by the administration of Snead State Community College in the fall 2008. Krebs Architecture and Engineering, Inc. of Birmingham, Alabama, was contracted to provide master planning services to the college.
The rationale for developing a Campus Master Plan for facilities was:
- To be effective stewards of public resources
- To visualize our future – a vibrant community of learning in full partnership with all of our constituencies, preserving heritage, culture, service, challenge and excellence
- To remain true to our heritage
Initial meetings with the administration and user groups provided initial guidance and input for this effort. Two main components of this input included a stakeholders group and a steering committee.
The stakeholders group consisted of various interested persons from the Snead campus and beyond; including students, faculty, alumnae, members of the community and local governmental officials. This group, during a meeting attended by approximately 45 persons, provided a broad range of perspectives, historical background, and opinions about the past and future of Snead State Community College.
The steering committee was formed by the school administration to provide feedback and critical decision during the design and development stages of the master planning process. This committee met monthly during this period and included the president, the chief financial officer for Snead, the mayor of Boaz, and several college department heads. This committee reviewed preliminary concepts and further design schemes for the master plan which involved both a 5-year and a 20-year timeline.
It would be difficult to overstate the strength of the relationship between Snead State Community College and the community of Boaz. The College has been the region’s leader in education, cultural enrichment, and athletics for 100 years. Snead State’s list of firsts is impressive: first electricity, first sewerage system, first auditorium, first gymnasium, first dedicated library building. Facilities have always been a critical aspect of fulfilling the College’s mission.
Snead State Community College has a unique heritage. Although a core of the original historic character of the campus remains intact, much has been lost to fire or demolition. Although Snead State continued to add critical facilities after World War II, the buildings no longer fully embodied or expressed the values of the college and community. For this reason, this analysis concentrates on the existing historic core of the campus and buildings that have been lost to fire or demolition.
This report has three objectives. The first is to provide a brief background history of the College, its historic district, and its historic buildings. The second is to bring attention to the key character defining features of the historic campus and buildings. The final objective is to inform the master planning process so that the existing historic fabric is enhanced by new development. This report is not intended to be an exhaustive history of Snead State nor is it a comprehensive evaluation of the condition of its historic structures.
The Historic District
In 1998 Snead Junior College was added to the Alabama Register of Landmarks and Heritage. In 1999 the College was listed in the National Register of Historic Places – the official list of the nation’s cultural resources worthy of preservation.
There are four historic structures remaining in the historic district: the Boatman President’s House, the Administration Building, Norton Library, and Pfeiffer Hall. These properties define the extent of the district along with the open spaces immediately to the north, west and east of the Administration Building. This six-acre historic district encompasses approximately 12 percent of the campus.
Although Snead State continued to add critical facilities after World War II the buildings no longer fully embodied or expressed the values of the college and community. For this reason, this analysis concentrates on the existing historic core of the campus and buildings that have been lost to fire or demolition.
There are two Department of the Interior criteria cited in Snead’s nomination for inclusion in the National Register of Historic Places – “the property is associated with events that have made a significant contribution to the broad patterns of our history” and the “property embodies the distinctive characteristics of a type, period, or method of construction”. The nomination describes Snead State’s dominant role in the “development of secondary and post-secondary education in Boaz, Alabama, and Marshall County from the 1890s to the 1940s”. The historic buildings are good examples of the dominant architectural styles used for academic buildings at the close of the 19th century and the first half of the 20th century.
The Administration Building
The Neo-Classical style Administration Building is the oldest, most architecturally significant, and most cherished building on campus. The two-story facility with basement was built in phases between 1921 and 1923. The north and south wings were constructed on each side of an older administration building that was later demolished.
The signature brick and limestone middle section was constructed last. The facility was designed by the architects Magaziner, Eberhard & Harris of Philadelphia. The north wing of the building houses Fielder Auditorium, named after the President of Snead Seminary. Construction of this auditorium is particularly significant in Snead State’s history. Dr. Fielder worked diligently to build closer ties with Boaz and he used the new venue for the benefit of the entire community. Fielder Auditorium became the place for public lectures, plays, and musical performances. In community meetings held in the fall of 2008 former students, professors, and community members still passionately expressed their affection for the place.
With its iconic cupola, Norton Library is the second most significant historic building on campus. This Georgian Revival style library was built in 1940 for the cost of $90,000. The structure is one-story with a full basement and partial mezzanine. Norton was the first building in Boaz dedicated exclusively as a library. Again, in the Snead tradition, the library was offered as a resource for the entire community – it even had a children’s reading room.
This Georgian Revival dormitory was built in 1942 for $100,000. It is a two story building with a full basement and slate tile roof. The dormitory was designed to house 60 women and included a well-appointed common lounge area on the ground floor. Pfieffer is the most derelict of the historic buildings with obvious damage to both its structure and historic fabric. The original window shutters have been removed and louvers have been added under the second story windows. The entry columns have been encapsulated with plywood for safety.
Boatman President’s House
The Colonial Revival styled Boatman President’s House, named after Conway Boatman, was built in 1936. It is a modest two-story structure with simple detailing. A one-story addition was added in 1981.
Other Historic Buildings
There are a number of other buildings significant to Snead State’s history that no longer exist or have been altered from their original state.
This is the second facility for the school built in 1901 under the Elder’s leadership. A kiln was constructed specifically for the brick used in the project. In 1908 a third floor was constructed under a new mansard roof and a belfry added to the front. This building was located on the same site as the Administration building that still stands. In fact, the north and south wings of the 1920s administration building were originally attached to this building. The Seminary was torn down and the neo-classical style center portion of the Administration building was constructed in its place.
McClesky Hall was a women’s dormitory built in 1907. The building was a model of innovation with an engine to power water pumps and a dynamo – the building had the first electricity and indoor toilet facilities in Boaz. McClesky Hall was a women’s dormitory built in 1907. The building was a model of innovation with an engine to power water pumps and a dynamo – the building had the first electricity and indoor toilet facilities in Boaz. McClesky Hall was demolished in 1957. It was located on the site where the William H. Osborn English Building now stands.
In 1925 a gymnasium was added to the campus at a cost of $31,000. This was the first regulation gym built in north Alabama and contributed to the growth of Snead State athletics. A major renovation in the 1970s was needed to address original construction deficiencies, however, the renovation changed the character of the building to such an extent that it could not be included in the Historic District.
Snead State is actually a campus with multiple buildings and park–like outdoor spaces. Though this campus aspect is obvious, it is an amenity lacking in most similar institutions. Preserving and enhancing the campus character should be the primary planning objective. Whenever additions or improvements to the College are contemplated, the first question that should be asked is: “will this project preserve or reinforce the campus setting”?
The scale of the Snead State historic campus and historic architecture is one of its most compelling features and is the logical expression of the community’s core values. At the stakeholders meeting held in the fall of 2008, people consistently used words like friendly, home-like, or intimate to describe the College. A campus where the buildings are primarily one or two stories reinforces this perception. In contrast, larger Universities often have planning guidelines that restrict building heights to four stories in order to maintain a pedestrian friendly campus. Although this distinction is somewhat subtle, it does speak to what differentiates the Snead State educational experience from a larger University.
Layout and Density
Snead State began modesty and expanded in limited increments. It appears that as buildings were added they were simply located adjacent to existing buildings – often with a green space between them. The result is that the historic core is laid out in informal quadrangles as opposed to a formally planned collegiate campus. The result is outdoor space with a mixed character – part park, part neighborhood, and part university quad. Again, this combination likely contributes to the comfort that students and faculty have on campus. The outdoor character loses these desirable aspects in the more recent northwest side of campus where the buildings are removed from the campus core and surrounded by large parking lots.
The remaining historic buildings have styles that are common for 20th century academic buildings: Neoclassical, Georgian, and Colonial Revival. These Snead buildings are characterized by their symmetry and simplicity. Tripartite organization is typical with a strong central entry and flanking building wings. All historic buildings except the administration building have pitched roofs.
A couple of common themes emerged during a historical meeting held in the fall of 2008. Stakeholders liked that the historic buildings were not flamboyant or overly ornate. A diversity of styles was also appreciated as opposed to having an “official” Snead State architecture.
Several of the newer buildings, such as the Learning Resource Center, were seen as disruptive to the campus character.
On exterior walls Red brick, limestone and white painted wood trim are the standard. Windows are typically double-hung of wood construction. Pfieffer and Norton have slate roofing.
With the exception of the Boatman house, the historic buildings are elongated rectangles in plan. Elevations have a predominately horizontal proportion reinforced by horizontal bands of stone or detail at the base, belt course, eave or cornice. The horizontal aspect is typically balanced by repeated vertical pilasters or columns constructed of brick, stone or wood.
Windows are window panes are vertically proportioned. Though still horizontal, the proportions of buildings elements on the Boatman House are organized around near squares.
The college’s early leaders struggled just to find funding for basic building projects. Not surprisingly, historic photos reveal that attention to landscaping was not a high priority – though some people at the College did have the foresight to plant trees. Although the campus now has numerous mature shade trees, most are past their prime and too few trees have been replanted to replace them. Landscaping has been added over the years, but it does not appear to part of the historic fabric or an intentional landscape plan.
Pine trees have a special significance at Snead State. Yearbooks were named “The Pines” and a line from Snead State’s Alma Mater reads “thy towering pine trees rise”. Interesting, before white settlement of Boaz, there were few pine trees in the area. Through regular burning of the underbrush, Native Americans created a grassy plain shaded by post oaks and chestnuts. In the late 1800s Post Oaks were the symbol of
Snead State’s growth has come at the expense of some of its heritage. The most pronounced example is the construction of the Learning Resource Center in 1975. To make room for the new facility, the original Elder house belonging to the College’s founders was raised to the ground along with mature hardwood trees. There is not even a historic marker at the site. The completed LRC building had no architectural relationship to the campus and stakeholders have said that it is one of the most disliked buildings on campus. Master planning, and its associated guidelines, will strengthen the connection between Snead State’s history and its future growth so that the entire campus, not just its historic core, embodies the values of the stakeholders.