A mighty restoration project is underway at The University of Southern Mississippi’s Ogletree House, left severely damaged by a tornado that struck the Hattiesburg campus on Feb. 10.
Reconstruction efforts began earlier this month on the building which houses the University’s Alumni Association offices. BW Sullivan Building Contractor Inc., of Hattiesburg is handling construction, with an estimated completion date of one year. Local preservation architect, Larry Albert, is overseeing the project for which he created the construction documents.
After more than six months of relocation to an off-campus site, the Alumni Association is poised to resume operations at the Ogletree House in the coming weeks. The 13-person staff will occupy space toward the north annex of the building added to the historic structure during a restoration and expansion project completed in 2009.
“Although the past six months have been immensely challenging, at the same time this period has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my career,” said Alumni Association Executive Director Jerry DeFatta. “To see our University pull together to rebuild from a storm of this magnitude has been incredible. The Ogletree House was perhaps the most public image of the Feb. 10 tornado and the start of construction signifies that we are well on our way to recovery.”
Opening in 1912 as one of the University’s five original buildings, the Ogletree House once served as the President’s Home. The building is named in honor of Powell Ogletree, who served as director of alumni relations for 34 years.
DeFatta notes that once the staff has been relocated, the Ogletree House will be open to alumni and friends during normal business hours on weekdays and accessible through the north entrance. However, the building will not be available during home football games this fall or for meetings and banquet space until the restoration is completed.
In addition to the Ogletree House, several other buildings suffered extensive damage from the powerful tornado. More than 75 trees, some estimated to be more than 90 years old, were lost in the storm. In the wake of the disaster, the USM Foundation has established avenues for those who wish to help with monetary contributions to the recovery efforts. For more information call 601.266.5210 or visit: http://www.usmfoundation.com
To learn more about the Southern Miss Alumni Association, call 601.266.5013 or visit: http://www.southernmissalumni.com