Trustees Approve Plans to Replace Merrill and Wallace Halls


During its quarterly meeting on July 16, the Jacksonville State University Board of Trustees approved construction plans to replace two facilities lost in the March 19, 2018 tornado: Merrill and Wallace Halls. 

Home to the School of Business and Industry, Merrill Hall took a direct hit by the EF-3 tornado that caused $100 million in damage to  campus. The nearly 50-year-old building was constructed in 1970 and named in honor of Rep. Hugh D. Merrill of Anniston, who was instrumental in helping change the status of JSU from a teachers’ college to a state college.

The destruction of Merrill displaced faculty, staff and students from one of the largest units on campus, but a short-term solution was found on the site of the former Kitty Stone Elementary School. Already owned by the university and vacant, the property was converted into the School of Business and Industry Complex. However, the property is not appropriate for the long-term needs of the growing school. 

The new home for the School of Business and Industry will boast more than 108,000 square feet of state-of-the-art teaching and learning space. Construction will begin following the demolition of Merrill, where crews will begin working over the week of July 22 on a project expected to take up to three months. The anticipated opening date for the new building is January 2021. 

Wallace Hall, home to the School of Health Professions and Wellness - including the Department of Nursing - was built in 1973 and named in honor of Gov. Lurleen B. Wallace. The building sustained major damage during the storm but was originally thought to be repairable. However, foundation issues were later discovered and the building declared a total loss. 

The school moved classes to Houston Cole Library and labs to the former Jacksonville Hospital, which was generously donated to the university by Regional Medical Center in May 2018. 

The new home for the School of Health Professions and Wellness will be moved to the site of the College Apartments, located adjacent to the Houston Cole Library and across the street from the site of the former Alumni House. Once the lot is cleared at the current site, the university will likely use the space of the former Wallace to add much-needed parking for the busy area which encompasses Houston Cole Library, Martin Hall, Rowe Hall and the softball stadium. Construction will begin in January with an anticipated opening of Summer 2021.

Now 16 months following the disastrous March 2018 tornado, repair work is drawing to a close on campus. According to David Thompson, director of capital planning and facilities, work should be completed at Brewer Hall, Carlisle Fine Arts Building, Salls Hall and Self Hall before the fall. The roof of Houston Cole Library should also be completed, while repairs will soon begin on the penthouse level of the building. Renovations and repairs of Mason Hall, repairs to Martin Hall and the installation of new exterior lights will continue into the fall semester. 

Approximately 50 of the 70 buildings on campus were damaged in the storm.