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Ebenezer Hall: Digging Into One Of MGA's Historical Treasures

May 2016

A short feature about the history of Ebenezer Hall - a structure dating back to 1890, serving many various iterations of the school that today operates as Middle Georgia State University

Writing by the Water
Ebenezer Hall: Digging Into One Of MGA's Historical Treasures: Work

If anyone had any doubt as to the truth of the old saying, “It’s a small world,” Cochran resident and Middle Georgia State University alumnus Barney Hendricks could lay that doubt to rest.

When World War II began, Hendricks – 18 years old at the time – left what was then known as Middle Georgia College, and volunteered for service in the Army Air Corps. He was sent to Miami, Fla., for his basic training and assigned a roommate. When next he spoke with his mother, he mentioned his new roomie’s name and got a startled “You don’t mean it!” in response.

Turns out that in the 1920s, the mother of Hendricks’ new roommate had once shared a room with Hendricks’ own mother – in Ebenezer Hall.

Dig into the history of Ebenezer Hall, currently undergoing a $250,000 renovation into office and meeting spaces for the Middle Georgia State University (MGA) Foundation, and one uncovers a precis of the history of Central Georgia. Originally constructed in 1890, the house is the sole surviving structure of New Ebenezer College, the Baptist institution that would eventually become Middle Georgia State’s Cochran Campus.

In its 126 years, Ebenezer Hall has served as everything from a president’s residence to an overflow dorm, from guest house to dining hall. When Margaret Cook shared a room in Ebenezer with the mother of her future son’s future roommate, the building was serving as teachers’ quarters for the 12th District Agricultural and Mechanical School, and Cook was serving as the school’s first home economics teacher. When she married, two years after taking the position, her tenure at the A&M and her residency at Ebenezer Hall both came to an end – married women (with the exception of the president’s wife) were not permitted to teach at the school in those days.

Starting in June 2016, the hall will host its newest tenants, the Middle Georgia State Foundation. In addition to office spaces for the Foundation and Alumni Affairs, the hall will host small gatherings and will house a small display of artifacts relating to the University’s history.

Seeking a permanent home for its Cochran offices, and to make way for an increased Admissions presence in the Welcome Center on 3rd Street, the Foundation identified Ebenezer Hall as a particularly appropriate new home in early 2015.

“Ebenezer Hall dates back to the original founding of the University. Our alumni are the other thing that reaches back that far – it’s a fitting space for Alumni Relations,” says Dr. Raymond Carnley, vice president for University Advancement and executive director of the Foundation. Choosing Ebenezer Hall, he says, “…was not a matter of convenience. The totality of our history starts right there, regardless of how that tree has split.”

Through its long history as part of New Ebenezer College, 12th District A&M, Middle Georgia College and Middle Georgia State University, Ebenezer Hall has accumulated some artifacts from other historic Central Georgia locations, as well. Walk through its front door, and you’ll see heart pine wainscoting salvaged from the Phillips-Frazier House in nearby Hawkinsville and cast-iron fireplaces recovered from the Cochran Hotel and from Wesleyan College’s former conservatory building in Macon
According to David Sims, assistant vice president for Facilities, in furnishing the office and meeting space, the University is “…committed to preservation of the period.” Furnishings and fittings will stay as near as possible to the styles that would have been present in the building when it opened in 1890.

All of these changes are good, says Barney Hendricks. For him, the hall isn’t just a building with an interesting history – his story is tied to the Cochran campus like few others.

After WWII, he finished his degree at Middle Georgia College, and returned to the campus as an employee from 1971 to 1990. He looks around the room, and smiles. “It’s a good old building,” he says. “We need to hold on to the historical things.”

Editor’s Note: The Middle Georgia State community was saddened to learn that between the time Barney Hendricks was interviewed for this article and its publication, he passed away at the age of 91. As an alumnus and former employee of the University, and active member of the Cochran community, he will be missed.

Ebenezer Hall: Digging Into One Of MGA's Historical Treasures: Text
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