Fort Screven Enlisted Men’s Barracks

The Enlisted Men’s Barracks was constructed in 1910 as part of “Fort Village” within Fort Screven, a National Register of Historic Places (NRHP) district. The barracks accommodated 124 men and was one of four such buildings at the post. In 1944 the fort was decommissioned and for the next 70 years, the building was underutilized and stripped of many historic features. Through this rehabilitation, significant features characteristic to its Colonial Revival style were preserved and restored. Today, it stands as the only surviving barracks within Fort Screven and an architectural artifact from a historic military installation within a coastal setting.

Design Challenge

The building code required new windows to meet all wind and energy ratings for the coastal environment. Because the property is listed in the NRHP, code exemptions to retain historic character-defining elements were used to reinstall existing historic sashes and fabricate new ones to match the original as closely as possible. In total, 65 new sashes were custom-made to replace those that were damaged or not original resulting in 100% of the windows matching the original design, dimension, material and configuration using the original pully-weight systems. The second floor of the front porch was enclosed in 1938 and original columns and railings discarded. Designs for reconstructing the porch used existing details, original building plans, and historic photographs. The original 1910 pipe guardrail did not meet minimum codes. In an effort to retain the minimalist look of the pipe railing, cable rails were installed four inches apart between the pipe rails in the new rail on the second floor. These discretely added fall protection while keeping the high transparency of the older railing intact. An additional horizontal rail was added to the top retaining the original appearance and meeting minimum life safety requirements for height. Within the interior, the original wood and metal structure were intact and historic photographs illustrated large open rooms with the structure exposed. The adaptive reuse incorporated all existing walls and doors into the new plan and offset new walls for interior spaces so that structural columns and ceiling beams would be exposed.

Physical Context

The property is located on the northern half of Tybee Island, Georgia in the Fort Screven NRHP District. Fort Screven was established in 1897 during a period of growth in the U.S. Navy to defend the coastline against an impending war with Spain. Following these events and prior to World War I, a collection of support structures, known as “Fort Village,” were constructed and included the Enlisted Men’s Barracks. The two-story structure featured a U-shaped design with a Colonial Revival style. Three other barracks were built in the fort during this period; however, none of these buildings remain standing today. The Colonial Revival style building and full-width two-story porch overlooks a public park which once served as the fort’s parade grounds. Years of vegetative overgrowth was removed to reestablish this important visual connection. The site is shaded by mature live oaks that have been on site since before the building. The original concrete pedestrian pathway, installed as part of the fort village and linking the buildings within the campus, was retained as a reminder to what was once a network of military structures. Demand for land close the beach has increased development pressures often threatening historic resources in this area. With no local protections against demolition or incompatible alterations, historic sites are vulnerable. Preservation of this building serves as a testament to the longevity of the site so that future generations may experience the architectural history of this part of the island.