Sunday, March 24, 2019

the last book I ever read (Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil: A Savannah Story, excerpt nine)

from John Berendt's Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil: A Savannah Story:

The Savannah College of Art and Design—known familiarly as SCAD—had opened its doors in 1979 with the blessings of all Savannah. The school had taken over the boarded-up Guard Armory on Madison Square and refurbished it as classrooms and studios for seventy-one art students. Within two years, enrollment had climbed to three hundred, and the college had acquired and restored several more old and empty buildings—warehouses, public schools, even a jailhouse. SCAD’s young president, Richard Rowan, let it be known that the student body would eventually grow to two thousand.

Downtown residents did not respond happily to Rowan’s announcement. While the students did contribute something to the local economy, and they did bring a little life to the otherwise empty streets, they were becoming in the eyes of some people a blight on the landscape with their green hair, their odd clothes, their skateboards, and their tendency to play loud music on their stereos well into the night. In reaction, a group of downtown residents formed a Quality of Life Committee to deal with the situation. Joe Webster, who headed the committee, could be seen each day at noontime walking stiffly with the aid of a cane from his office in the C&S Bank building to the Oglethorpe Club for lunch. His route took him down Bull Street past the main entrance of SCAD, where he would invariably make his way through a small cluster of students and point silently with his cane at some offending object—a crumpled candy wrapper or a motorcycle idling noisily at the curb. On one occasion, Mr. Webster and his committee stopped in to see Richard Rowan in his office to express their concern that the fragile human ecology of downtown Savannah might not survive two thousand students. The total population of the historic district was, after all, only about ten thousand. Rowan told the committee that he would see what he could do about the loud music and that, by the by, he had recently revised his goal from two thousand students to four thousand.

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