Alabama boasts many fine examples of WPA rustic-style stone buildings. One of note is the Sherer Auditorium in downtown Jasper built as a municipal auditorium in 1938 through the U.S. Works Project Administration. The WPA provided funding for architects to create a variety of buildings, including amphitheaters and lodges.
The Works Progress Administration (renamed the Work Projects Administration in 1939) was established in 1935 by President Franklin D. Roosevelt. This New Deal agency employed millions of jobseekers, mostly men, to carry out public works projects including the construction of public buildings and roads.
Now Birmingham-based CCR Architecture & Interiors is at work renovating the former Sherer Auditorium, which will once again to be used for a municipal function. This time as the Jasper City Hall.
The overlapping shroud was removed to expose the building’s original native stone. The stucco façade that hid the stonework was added in 1972. Renovating this historic property also includes a complete interior renovation.
“The former auditorium will be repurposed as the City of Jasper Council Chambers for public meetings with city employee offices and spaces for the residents to gather and handle business,” says CCR Architecture & Interiors President Tammy Cohen. “The lower floor has been designed for retail spaces to open on an outdoor plaza overlooking Town Creek.”
December 31, 2023 is the expected completion date. The Sherer Auditorium, named in honor of former City Commissioner of Public Works Harry Sherer, closed in 2009 as a cost-saving measure. Since that time there has been much discussion about turning this WPA Rustic Architecture gem into Jasper’s new City Hall. The project received approval in 2021.
“The stone was quarried in north Alabama, and we believe the roof structure was rebuilt with steel trusses and wood decking after a fire destroyed the roof,” says CCR Architecture & Interiors Senior Projects Manager Danny Trotter. “The building was modernized, and the stone was covered with a stucco panelized system that has now been removed. The design intent is to recreate the original WPA construction with up-to-date commercial interiors allowing the City of Jasper to accommodate their growing community.”
The building’s thick structural stone walls and steel windows are typical of WPA-era construction, Trotter notes. Its rustic style is part of a long tradition that goes back to the public park movement during the mid-19th century.
Historic buildings add to a city’s character, heritage, and sense of place, and the former Sherer Auditorium is achieving just that for Jasper. Urbanist and activist Jane Jacobs believed in using existing buildings instead of new ones whenever possible, a trend that has long happened with gusto in Alabama.
“Old ideas can sometimes use new buildings,” Jacobs once said. “New ideas must use old buildings.”
*Article Written by Jessica Armstrong and Images Courtesy of CCR Architecture & Interiors