New in Newbern: Rural Studio project assists Hale Co.

Published 12:00 am Thursday, June 24, 2004

NEWBERN-G.B. Woods, member of the Newbern volunteer fire department said thanks too four seniors of Auburn University’s Rural Studio program the department would soon have a place to call home.

The fire department has been in existence for a little over one year and has seen its share of fires, he said. The department has two fire trucks, one tanker truck, and a pickup truck, but nowhere to house them, and that’s where the Rural Studio comes into play.

“As part of the grant when we got the big fire truck, we had to build somewhere to house it,” Woods said, “Then, Rural Studio stepped in and offered to build it for us.”

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Two Auburn University architecture professors, Dennis Ruth and Samuel Mockbee formed the Rural Studio within the university’s School of Architecture. Its main goal is to improve the living conditions in rural Alabama and to include hands-on experiences.

The four students, Matthew Finley of Birmingham, Liz Ellington of Maryland, Leia Price of Guntersville, and Will Brothers of Huntsville are all fifth year seniors living in Newbern as part of the Rural Studio. These four students have designed the new fire department from the cement up.

“The residents told us they wanted a building to house the fire engines, as well as somewhere to hold public meetings and to vote, pretty much a community building,” Price said.

The residents who are a part of the volunteer fire department have been a great help to the project so far, she said. This building once completed will be the first new building built in downtown Newbern in the past 100 years, since 1895.

“We are just enjoying the town of Newbern and its residents,” Price said, “It’s an amazing experience.”

Everyone here is glad to be doing something constructive for this poor town, Finley said. They would like to thank the professors for allowing them the opportunity to come to Newbern and make a difference.

“I would like to thank my parents,” Finley said, “For letting me stay here and not making me get a real job.”

The fire department building is a collaboration of four different ideas, but the design will be very effective, he said. One specific idea included in the design is the use of special siding that keeps the heat in during the winter and releases it during the summer.

“We’ve received many donations from the community and thanks to their help the building should be up soon,” Finley said.