the time is at hand when a mechanical engineer, a manufacturer, has every
need and every inducement and every facility for obtaining all that makes
any man worthy of the esteem of his fellows, viz: Education, in its truest
M.P. Higgins, consultant and first shop foreman of the Georgia School of
Technology defined the vision and purpose behind the state's fledgling technical
school with these words. Then, on that October day in 1888, twelve year
old Nellie Inman pulled the switch that set a thousand wheels in motion.
The school's machinery throbbed, hissed and rumbled. The Georgia School
of Technology was open for business.
Georgia Tech had its first beginnings in a conversation between two former Confederate Officers--Major John Fletcher Hanson and Nathaniel Edwin Harris in May 1882. Hanson was then President of the Bibb Textile Company, managing editor of the Macon Telegraph and future president of the Central of Georgia Railroad. Harris was a Macon lawyer with many industrial clients. Both men, as Confederate Officers, were products of the "Old South"-a prosperous agrarian society that effectively vanished in 1861, when the first shots were fired at Fort Sumter, South Carolina. Both men participated in a war that was lost at least in part because of the superior technology of the North. Both were ardent supporters of the "New South Creed"-a belief that the South could rise from the ashes of the dead past through industrial development and win the lost war by emulating, and then surpassing, the North on the battlefields of industry and commerce.
to Walter Drury, in his master's thesis, The Architectural Development
of Georgia Tech, Hanson described the need for a technical school
and Harris reportedly replied, "I would rather be the author of a
law establishing such a school than be Governor of Georgia."(2)
Harris ran for the legislature for Bibb County and was elected for the
term of 1882-1886. In 1882, Harris introduced a bill for the establishment
of a technical school in Georgia and was appointed to head a committee
"to investigate the question of technical education." (3)
The committee decided that the Georgia School of Technology would place equal emphasis on practical apprenticeship and academic pursuits. According to Drury, the Worcester Free School was selected as the model for the Georgia school because the committee felt it offered the best model "for moral as well as practical reasons." The Georgia School of Technology was expected to do more than teach academic subjects or a trade. The role of the school was also to develop in the state's youth "the character traits of industry, or diligent attention to work." (5) The committee was also impressed by the self-sufficiency of Worcester. "Items made in the shop by Worcester students were sold to produce income for the school." (6)
appropriated for grounds and buildings, tools and appliances, for school
operation for one year. Peters Park was selected, over competing sites
in Grant Park and on Boulevard, for reasons of cost and best proximity
to Atlanta business, railroads and industry. The first campus of the Georgia
School of Technology was nine acres and two buildings in the area bounded
by North Avenue, Fowler Avenue, and Cherry Street.
prestigious civic architectural firm in Atlanta--Bruce and Morgan--was
selected to design the first two buildings, an academic building containing
classrooms, laboratories and administrative offices and a shop building
containing a foundry, forge, boiler room and engine room, to support the
learning of wood work and metal work, with a view to designing and building
working engines. The Shop Building also served as the school's physical
According to Drury, both buildings were designed in the prevailing style of the times, High Victorian according to the tenets of John Ruskin. Ruskinian architecture, in revulsion against unprincipled labor practices and sordid urban factories, harkened back in its civic architecture to nobler ideals symbolized by towers and heroic ornamentation. The Academic and Shop Buildings were imbued in their designs with moral purpose. The focal point of each building was its tower.
The building's ornamentation was lofty and symbolic. Oak leaves on the Academic Building's capital represented endurance and strength. Religious ornamentation-fish containing a clove-like pattern of three dots-decorated the limestone spring line of the paired arches. The Gothic ornamentation emphasizes the school's belief in its noble vision and purpose: to inform the moral character of the student and thus participate, through the development of an educated, industrious managerial class, in the rebirth of a prosperous South. (10)
Building was designed in the same style, with a corresponding tower, reflecting
the balance between academic studies and practical apprenticeship. The
building materials used in both the Academic and the Shop Building reflect
the school's mission to develop Georgia's industry through the use of
its native resources: Chattahoochee brick, machine pressed brick, and
Georgia marble and granite. The building materials are a blend of high
art and craftsman's skill and thus also reflect the School's equal emphasis
on learning and practice. (11)
The Georgia School of Technology opened its doors the first Wednesday in October, 1888. The first faculty were Captain Lyman Hall, Mathematics, Rev. Charles Lane, English, R.B. Shepard, Mechanical and Free-hand Drawing, Dr. William H. Emerson, Chemistry and John S. Coons, Mechanical Engineering. M.P. Higgins, on loan from the Worcester Free Institute, served as the first superintendent of the school's shop. The only degree offered was the Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering. The initial enrollment consisted of 95 young men, all but two from Georgia.
In the early hours of April 21, 1892, the Shop Building was destroyed by fire. In the interests of economy, it was decided that the new Shop Building would be built according to the original design, even re-using the same brick. According to Drury, the new building, substantially completed by the end of 1892, reflected a shift in architectural values. "The new building shed its Victorian ornament and tower and in its place a more harmonious, balanced and reposed classical spirit emanated." (12) The foundry and forge were placed in separate buildings to prevent recurrence of the fire. The building was reduced from three stories to two. Although many design considerations were dictated by cost, the new building also reflected the growing dominance of research and study over practical apprenticeship. The school came under increasing pressure to cease bidding on manufacturing projects, since the free labor provided by students gave the school a strong competitive edge. Enrollment dropped to an all time low after the fire.
Continue to the Hall Administration, 1895-1905