Doors opens at archive facility

By Justin Boron

Stephen Feit remembers his dead father, not through images ingrained in his memory, but through entries into U.S. Census documents.

His father left him in the state of New York when he was three.

And Feit, 78, had little knowledge of what happened to him after that.

The archive facility, in which the Fayetteville resident studied Friday, is the kind of place where he reunited with his long lost father, even if only through historical documents.

Before that Feit said he had no memory of him.

He told of his quest in Morrow Friday just hours after the new $28.5 million national archives facility opened to the public for the first time, ending two years of planning and construction.

The National Archives and Records Administration of the Southeast Region moved from East Point and into the 115,000- square-foot building near Clayton College & State University and next to the new state archives.

The two archives facilities are part of the Gateway Village redevelopment project, which officials hope will become a mixed-use village, bustling with students and researchers by the time development finishes sometime around 2010.

Over the next three months, federal archives staff will transfer all of the documents in East Point into 230,000 cubic feet in storage space in Morrow.

For Feit, he said the new facility means future journeys into the past in a much bigger, modern facility.

Having rediscovered his father, who he found had changed his name to Leopold Fox, Feit has gone on other quests, trying to track down his ancestors.

One of his most fascinating discoveries was that his Austrian ancestors last name started with a 'V'

"Veit" as opposed to Feit, he said.

The revelation is not that surprising given the number of names changed during the waves of immigration early in the century, said Gloria Lucas of the Augusta Genealogical Society, who was the first researcher to enter the facility Friday.

"We genealogists know that spelling pretty much means nothing," she said.

Local dignitaries, behind the Gateway Village project, addressed a crowd of about 150 at a ribbon cutting ceremony.

Morrow Mayor Jim Millirons said he never had a doubt about the archives' fruition.

"You saw a vision without very many resources," he said.

The future of the facility, which contains everything from draft cards to momentous documents of the Civil Rights Movement, will be a place where local clubs and governments can meet and where people visit to see exhibits of original documents, said James McSweeney, the regional administrator for archives in the Southeast region.

"I would love to be able to rent out this space to (public groups)," he said.

He also said eventually documents like civil rights leader Rosa Parks police booking report could be on display.

Original correspondence about the atom bomb might even exhibited sometime in the future, McSweeney said.