Brittain Dining Hall: The Beginning

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Today, Brittain Dining Hall, named after former Georgia Tech President Marrion L. Brittain, is the sole dining hall on the East campus of the Georgia Institute of Technology. Brittain uses a buffet style dining system with a variety of different foods every day. It is located on Techwood Drive in front of Bobby Dodd Stadium. As of 2001, Brittain Dining Hall served an average of 15,000 meals and was open for 93 hours a week[1] It has been renovated four times throughout its history; the most recent of these renovations taking place in the summer of 2007. Brittain is still a hub of student activity and often serves as a place for students to get together and eat. Rosalind Meyers, the Associate Vice President of Auxiliary Services at Georgia Tech, went as far as to say, “Aside from the Tech Tower, this is the second most recognized building on campus.”[2]

Contents

Marrion Luther Brittain: The Man behind the Dining Hall

Marrion Luther Brittain was born on November 11, 1865 in Wiles County, Georgia. He proceeded to graduate from Emory University and later earn a graduate degree from the University of Chicago. When Brittain finished his studies, he moved back to his home state to become the superintendent of Fulton County Schools until 1910, when he was promoted to the position of Georgia’s State Superintendent. He was the state superintendent of schools until 1921, when he accepted the job of becoming president of the Georgia Institute of Technology on July 4 of that year. Brittain was considered an extremely successful president throughout his career at Georgia Tech and was known for contributing to the physical and academic growth of the institution and growing involvement with the state of Georgia. He was able to establish 22 new buildings on campus during his 22 years as President. By his retirement, nearly 75% of the campus’s monetary value was vested in buildings. Brittain retired in 1944 and wrote a history on Georgia Tech. He passed away in 1953 at the age of 87.[3]

Lead Architects of Brittain Dining Hall

Harold Busch-Brown

Harold Busch-Brown was born on November 3, 1888 in Paris, France. He received his master’s degree from Harvard in 1915. In World War I, he served on a submarine out of New London, Connecticut for the Navy. After the war ended, Busch-Brown was employed by Georgia Tech to serve as a professor of architecture, and, in 1925, he replaced James L. Skinner as the head of the school of architecture. Including his duties at Georgia Tech, Busch-Brown remained a professional architect and eventually became the President of the Georgia Chapter of the American Institute of Architects. He was the senior member of the architectural firm Busch-Brown, Gailey, and Hefferman. Along with planning and designing Brittain Dining Hall, he also designed the Textile Building, the west stands of the stadium, several dormitories, the Architecture Building, the Highway Building, and several fraternity houses. Harold Busch-Brown retired from his position as head of the school of architecture after 31 years of service.[3]

James Herbert Gailey

James Herbert Gailey earned his Bachelor of Science in architecture at the University of Pennsylvania in 1910. In 1912, Gailey became employed at Georgia Tech as an instructor of architecture - only four years after the School of Architecture at Georgia Tech was established. Shortly after he took the position he was promoted to Assistant Professor, and was then promoted yet again to Associate Professor in 1921. He became a full professor in 1925 and became successful in the architectural firm Busch-Brown, Gailey, and Hefferman. This was where he and Harold Busch-Brown worked together to plan and design Britain Dining Hall. Along with the design of the dining hall, Gailey also contributed to the design of the Guggenheim School of Aeronautics, several dormitories (Glen, Smith, and Towers), the Engineering Mechanics Building, a swimming pool and an athletic office building. He also devised Georgia Tech’s first campus plans for the years 1944-1954. After World War II, Gailey had a resurgence of designs for campus buildings such as the Textile Engineering Building, the School of Architecture Building, the Prince Gilbert Memorial Library, and the State Highway Laboratories. Retiring from Georgia Tech after 44 years of work, Gailey’s career far surpassed that of his partner in design of Brittain Dining Hall, Harold Busch Brown.[3]

Funding for Brittain Dining Hall

The cost of Brittain Dining Hall was $125,000, which was relatively expensive for a college dining hall in the 1920’s. Luckily, President Brittain was able to act as an excellent fund raiser for the university and had gained a surprisingly amount of connections during his short time at Georgia Tech up to this point. In 1921, The Carnegie Educational Fund promised to donate $150,000 to Georgia Tech as long as $1,500,000 was pledged from other sources during that same year. When President Brittain obtained enough donations and pledges, he was able to keep The Carnegie Educational Fund to its word. With an extra $150,000, President Brittain decided to have the Brittain Dining Hall constructed along with several other small projects completed including renovations on the Ceramics building and the Army ROTC building.[4]

Design and Construction of Brittain Dining Hall

Brittain.jpg

After World War I, Georgia Tech experienced a surge in enrollment on account of not only soldiers returning home but also from many others who helped out the cause from U.S. soil. To accommodate this growth, clearly some changes to the campus had to be made to the campus. Since President Brittain worked on improving Georgia Tech’s relationship with the state of Georgia, Tech received sufficient funding to expand the campus itself and to fill the newly acquired land with new buildings for classrooms and anything else that the increased student body required. One of these requirements was a new, large dining hall that could hold a large amount of students and feed them efficiently to account for their class schedules. The result of this need was Brittain Dining Hall. Luckily, Georgia Tech had one of the top architectural programs in the Southeast at the time so President Brittain did not have to look far to decide who he wanted to design the dining hall. He chose the architectural firm Bush-Brown, Gailey, and Hefferman which was headed by two Georgia Tech professors of architecture at the time, Harold Bush-Brown and James Herbert Gailey. These two architects had plenty of experience between them but the creation of Brittain Dining Hall was a collaborative effort. Some of the student body in the architecture department was allowed to participate in actual design projects for the dining hall. The Ceramic Department contributed by designing the floor tiles, the Mechanical Engineering Department made the iron for the light fixtures, and the Textile Department contributed by designing the curtains for the President’s Dining Room, which is now simply used as extra dining space for the students. Even President Brittain contributed by adding a Roman marble statue to the dining hall that he purchased on his trip to Europe in 1928. In the 1920’s, most architects were designing more modern buildings but Bush-Brown and Gailey decided to keep a more traditional Gothic style design for Brittain[3]

Construction of Brittain Dining Hall went smoothly and was completed in 1928. Built in the middle of several east campus dorms, it was thought to become a focal point for student life. This turned out to be so until campus spread out and new dorms were built on west campus in the 1970’s. The importance of Brittain decreased until renovations of the dining hall took place and Freshman Experience was created around the turn of the century.[1]

References

  1. 1.0 1.1 REMARKS BY GEORGIA TECH PRESIDENT G. WAYNE CLOUGH. http://smartech.gatech.edu/bitstream/1853/20557/1/oop_01-014_Brittain_DED_10-01.pdf
  2. The Whistle. Vol. 25 No. 10. http://smartech.gatech.edu/bitstream/1853/3826/1/mar12.pdf
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 Georgia Tech Online Archives; http:// history.library.gatech.edu/archive/files/brittain_hrs_3e059d50c4.pdf
  4. Engineering the New South Records (MS032), Archives, Library and Information Center, Georgia Institute of Technology
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