Carter Hall Restoration
by Grace Mullaney Humbles ’13
In 1928, a young entrepreneur named Paul Carter dreamed of bringing men and women from all over the nation to his beloved hotel in Lookout Mountain, Georgia. The luxurious “Castle in the Clouds,” as it became known, seemed to do just that, attracting people from around the country for weekend getaways and lavish vacations.
During the Great Depression, Paul Carter’s dream was dashed, along with the hopes of thousands of other Americans, as the bankrupt Lookout Mountain Hotel closed its doors. For decades the building sat unused on the top of Lookout Mountain, until 1964, when a few brave men and women helped move a fledgling college from St. Louis into the run-down castle in the clouds.
Half a century later, that hotel, now known as Carter Hall, has been home to thousands of young men and women from all over the world—men and women who have gone on to become doctors, missionaries, business people, pastors, teachers, artists, lawyers. Throughout the past fifty years, Covenant College has grown and changed, but Carter Hall has remained the center of the College’s campus. Although periodic renovations kept the building in operation, it became clear several years ago that a larger restoration was needed to ensure the building is available for future generations of students. Work began on the Carter Hall restoration in the summer of 2015.
The restoration of Covenant’s flagship building will include a return to Carter Hall’s original exterior design. The original stucco exterior is being uncovered, patched, and recoated, and the stonework repaired. In addition to reclaiming the original design of the historic tower, a new roof will be installed, and all windows in the building will be replaced with double windows. Plans include bringing back the porches on the north and south ends of the building and conducting limited renovations on the interior of the building, including the installation of a fire sprinkler system. Planning is also underway for a separate project that will include a renovation of the Great Hall during the summer of 2016.
As we work to restore the exterior of Carter Hall, as we watch scaffolding go up and old windows come down, we’re reminded of the restorative work God is doing in the life of every student here at Covenant College. It’s no stretch to say that Carter Hall is the heart of Covenant’s campus. It’s where students eat and live. It’s the home of afternoon study sessions and late-night Blink runs. It’s the unmistakable landmark that tells people in the valley, “Something is happening here.”
In the 1970s, the late Allen Duble ’58 visited Paul Carter to update him on what was happening at Covenant. Paul asked him why he insisted on visiting, and told Allen that all the visits did was remind him of the failure of his dream. Allen said to him, “I don’t know whether you have thought of this or not, but your dream has been fulfilled in far greater measure than you ever could have dreamed it. We’ve got kids here from 24 states and 17 foreign countries. And they don’t come for a weekend—they come for four years. Your dream has been fulfilled.”
It comes as no surprise that God would fulfill Paul Carter’s dream in such an unexpected and beautiful way. Here at Covenant, the dreams and desires of our students, faculty, and staff are continually transformed by the work God is doing in and through them on this mountain.
The physical transformation of Carter Hall will occur in four semester-long phases, with an expected completion date of the summer of 2017. During each phase, the campus community will continue to make use of most of the building, while students and staff located in the particular section under renovation will be relocated to other housing and offices around campus.
“This is the culmination of a seven-year planning process,” says David Northcutt, campus architect. “We want to invest in and care for Carter to ensure that Covenant students will be able to enjoy the building for generations to come."
With phase one nearing completion, the renovation of Carter Hall has become a large part of the daily lives of the Covenant community. But this exterior transformation is minor in comparison to the great work of transformation God has done and continues to do in the hearts and minds of our students.
The estimated cost of the restoration of Carter Hall is $19.4 million. To date, the College has $11.7 million raised or pledged for the renovation, which provided the resources necessary to begin the project. An additional $7.7 million is needed to complete the restoration of Carter without incurring any long-term debt.
“I am delighted by the support we’ve already received for this project,” says Dr. Derek Halvorson, president, “and pray that God would continue to guide us and to provide for this project as we seek to steward well a resource that has played—and continues to play—a central role in the life of the College and of each Covenant student.”
As friends and alumni choose to invest in the restoration of Carter Hall, it is clear that their investment is not simply in bricks and mortar, roof tiles, and new windows. It’s an investment in students, in the idea of a liberal education in the arts and sciences, in a place of community and personal growth. The restoration and transformation of Carter Hall is an investment in the place God has called us to steward.
Visit covenant.edu/carter if you would like to see the current progress or give toward the restoration.
- Carter Hall was originally built as the Lookout Mountain Hotel in 1928
- Covenant moved from St. Louis to Lookout Mountain in 1964
- All offices, student rooms, & classrooms were original housed in Carter Hall
- After the renovation, all student residence rooms will include two windows
- 26,000 roof tiles will replace Carter’s leaking roof
- Additional beds will make Carter home to 315 students
- Total cost: $19.4 million