Renovation to transform Emory's Old Theology Building

By Laura Douglas-Brown | Emory Report | July 11, 2017

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Renovations to the Old Theology Building will preserve key architectural details including the ornate wooden ceiling, shown here in a photo taken before demolition began. Emory Photo/Video

More than a century after it was constructed, one of the first buildings on Emory's Atlanta campus will once again be a showpiece for the university, welcoming visitors and members of the campus community alike as they meet with the university's president and other leaders.

Renovations now underway will transform the original School of Theology building into the new home of the Office of the President and several other executive offices. Construction will continue through late 2018.

"With strong support from the Board of Trustees, the restoration of the Old Theology Building began earlier this summer," says University Secretary Allison Dykes. "We are excited that this iconic Emory building will once again be used."

Emory College was founded by the Methodist Episcopal Church in 1836 in Oxford, Georgia, where Emory's Oxford College is now located. Asa Candler, founder of the Coca-Cola Company, offered seed money and donated land in Atlanta for the university to expand, and on Jan. 25, 1915, the Superior Court of DeKalb County granted a charter to Emory University.

What has been known in recent years as the Old Theology Building was completed in 1916 as one of the first two buildings on Emory's Atlanta campus.  It is also part of the Emory Historic District, which was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1975.

Designed by architect Henry Hornbostel, it features the Italian Renaissance style and pink and gray marble that defines the university's main quadrangle. Originally, it housed the Candler School of Theology, the chancellor’s office and an academic library.

For decades, the building was home to the Pitts Theology Library. But as Pitts grew to become one of the premier theology libraries in North America and one of the most comprehensive in the world, it needed new space and new technology.

So in 2014, Pitts moved to the newly constructed Phase II of Candler School of Theology's new building, located just off the Quadrangle adjacent to the Rita Anne Rollins Building on Dickey Drive — leaving the old space vacant and ripe for renovation.

The ongoing renovations will modernize the Old Theology Building while preserving key architectural features, including the ornate wooden ceiling.

The university has not yet determined the future use of the space in the Administration Building that is currently occupied by the Office of the President and other offices that will relocate to the renovated building, Dykes said.