The Georgia Trust

The Georgia Trust for Historic Preservation
Announces its 2007 List of State’s 10 ‘Places in Peril’

ATLANTA, Nov. 9, 2006 — The Georgia Trust for Historic Preservation released today its 2007 list of 10 Places in Peril in the state.

Sites on the list include: Cherokee structures in North Georgia; the City Auditorium in Waycross; the Gilmer County Courthouse; the Wren's Nest and Herndon Home, both house museums in Atlanta; the Eleanor Roosevelt School in Warm Springs; raised Tybee Island cottages; the Aluminum Mill Hill workers' houses in Eatonton; the Virginia-Highland neighborhood in Atlanta; and, the Hand Trading Company Building in Pelham.

“This is the Trust’s second annual Places in Peril list,” said Greg Paxton, president and CEO of the Trust.

Places in Peril is designed to raise awareness about Georgia’s significant historic, archaeological and cultural resources, including buildings, structures, districts, archaeological sites and cultural landscapes that are threatened by demolition, neglect, lack of maintenance, inappropriate development or insensitive public policy.

“We are not attempting to develop a ‘most endangered list’ for Georgia,” Paxton emphasized. “There are many other locations throughout our state that could have been on our list - - - and they are just as endangered and in need of community help as the 10 we have identified,” he added.

"The locations chosen are not only endangered themselves, but represent a group of similar threatened historic resources. We must never forget that once a historic place is gone, it’s gone forever,” Paxton said.

Through Places in Peril, the Trust will encourage owners and individuals, organizations and communities to employ proven preservation tools, financial resources and partnerships in order to reclaim, restore and revitalize historic properties that are in peril.

Sites on the Trust’s 2006 list, which was announced in November 2005, included: the Terrell County Courthouse in Dawson; the Auburn Avenue Commercial District in Atlanta; Andalusia, the home of Flannery O’Connor, outside of Milledgeville; Hartwell Downtown National Register District; Pasaquan, an internationally acclaimed visionary art site in Marion County near Buena Vista; U.S. Highway 17, the gateway to Historic Brunswick and the Golden Isles; the former Hawkinsville High School; Ponce de Leon Apartments in Atlanta; City Mills in Columbus; and, the Cowen Farmstead in Acworth.

The Georgia Trust for Historic Preservation is the country’s largest statewide, nonprofit preservation organization with more than 8,000 members.

Committed to preserving and enhancing Georgia’s communities and their diverse historic resources for the education and enjoyment of all, The Georgia Trust generates community revitalization by finding buyers for endangered properties acquired by its Revolving Fund; provides design assistance to 107 Georgia Main Street cities and encourages neighborhood revitalization; trains teachers in 61 Georgia school systems to engage students to discover state and national history through their local historic resources; and, advocates for funding, tax incentives and other laws aiding preservation efforts.

The Georgia Trust is a recipient of the Trustees Award for Organizational Excellence from the National Trust for Historic Preservation.

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Editor’s Note: Summary information on each of the 10 Places in Peril follows. For additional information on each site, background information on the program itself and a .gif photo of each site, please click here.

Cherokee Structures in North Georgia

Before the Cherokees were forced out of Georgia in 1838, they lived accomplished lives with a written alphabet, newspaper and constitution. The Cherokees built cabins, operated ferries and constructed stagecoach stops and taverns, along the Federal Road and throughout North Georgia.

The homes of more notable Cherokees, James Vann and Major Ridge, are protected. But, a great many Cherokee-built structures are gone. Others have been incorporated into larger homes, making it difficult to assess exactly what is Cherokee-built. These significant historic resources are in peril because they remain unidentified, undocumented and unprotected.

Efforts are already underway to identify Cherokee sites and structures in North Georgia. The Georgia Chapter of the Trail of Tears Association has undertaken this task and to support legislation to amend the Trail of Tears National Historic Trail to include trail segments in Georgia. But, additional information is needed in order to identify, document and protect those existing structures.

City Auditorium, Waycross

Constructed in Waycross through the Works Progress Administration in 1937, the City Auditorium was built as a recreational and community facility. It has housed numerous events, including concerts by Roy Orbison and Elvis Presley.

Although it is still in use, the building is plagued by deferred maintenance and water infiltration. It also needs a new roof and electrical and plumbing systems.

Viewed as a local landmark and ideal community center, the city is pursuing National Register-listing and wants to incorporate the auditorium into the local downtown historic district. To make the building fully functional, the city needs community support, as well as both public and private funding.

Gilmer County Courthouse, Ellijay

The Gilmer County Courthouse in Ellijay, which is listed in the National Register, was constructed as the Hyatt Hotel in 1898 and converted to civic use in 1934.

After decades of deferred maintenance, the county commission proposed demolition of the courthouse, claiming rehabilitation would cost more than new construction. Experienced preservationists pointed out that the rehabilitation methodology of tearing down all but the brick walls was unnecessary and the most expensive approach possible. When similar courthouses throughout Georgia and the U.S. have been rehabilitated to preservation standards, the overall cost has been, in fact, considerably less than new construction.

Gilmer County citizens, however, voted on Tuesday, Nov. 7, 2006, to demolish this historic building. While it appears that the Gilmer County courthouse will become a victim of the wrecking ball in the near future, the Trust will continue to work in partnership with several state agencies to save Georgia's remaining courthouses. For more information on this issue, see the cover story in the September-October 2006 issue of The Rambler, http://www.georgiatrust.org/publications/SEPTEMBEROCTOBER06.pdf

Wren’s Nest, Atlanta

Located in the West End neighborhood of Atlanta, Joel Chandler Harris purchased this home in 1883. Harris, a journalist and editor of the Atlanta Constitution, is famous for writing the Uncle Remus stories. Opened to the public in 1913, the Wren’s Nest was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1962.

Today, the Wren’s Nest, currently operating in the red, is struggling to keep its doors open due to diminished grants, low membership and lackluster visitation.

Although the house is in excellent condition, the operations are in need of immediate financial assistance. The Wren’s Nest is representative of historic house museums in similar circumstances throughout Georgia and nationwide.

Herndon Home, Atlanta

Alonzo Herndon, a former slave who became Atlanta’s first black millionaire, constructed this residence in 1910. Operated as a house museum by a foundation created by Herndon’s son in 1947, it became a National Historic Landmark in 2000.

Water damage to the home and other needed repairs have been reported. The house museum is currently forced to operate with limited hours. It is open for tours on Tuesdays and Thursdays, as well as by appointment. The Foundation has completed some repairs, but the future of the house is unclear. Funding is needed for repairs and to continue operations, or the future of this truly unique American gem is uncertain.

Although repairs have been made, the lack of funding for operations and maintenance of the building remains the most imminent threat. Alternative funding sources and uses are need for the home to continue to benefit the public.

Eleanor Roosevelt School, Warm Springs

The Eleanor Roosevelt School, dedicated in 1937 in Warm Springs, is the last of more than 5,000 schools nationwide built with Rosenwald funds. Julius Rosenwald, an early investor, president and chairman of Sears, created a fund to provide seed money to build schools for African-American children from 1918 to 1932. Of the 242 Rosenwald schools built in Georgia, only 43 have been identified as extant.

Closed in 1972, the school has since been used as office space and a storage facility. Although the original windows are lost, the building remains in sound condition, but requires extensive rehabilitation.

A local group and the State's Historic Preservation Division have been meeting to discuss possible uses. Meriwether County is considering purchasing the building for a museum and community center.

Aluminum Hill Mill Workers' Houses, Eatonton

These vernacular houses were built between 1885 and 1910 as residences for workers at a nearby mill. Although simple, the houses do contain original features and are significant resources to the revitalization of adjoining downtown Eatonton.

The houses are in fair condition, but many have roof leaks and several have been poorly renovated. The current owner has taken no interest in the property, and although for sale, has not allowed potential buyers time to study the property.

This group of historic buildings needs to be sold to a preservation-minded buyer who will rehabilitate them. The homes would make an ideal affordable housing project. Other mill villages around the state are in similar situations.

Tybee Island Raised Cottages

Built a full story above ground to accommodate the automobile, Tybee Island Raised Cottages were first constructed in 1923. These cottages are the most prevalent building type on Tybee, representing nearly 25 percent of the historic resources on the island.

Development is putting immense pressure on the historic resources, view sheds and open spaces of Tybee Island. Developers are buying lots, tearing down or moving historic buildings and constructing duplexes, condominiums or larger beach houses.

Tybee Island passed a local preservation ordinance and drafted design guidelines in 2000, but no local historic districts have been designated. In order to protect the island’s historic resources, historic districts and design guidelines need to be enacted.

Virginia-Highland Neighborhood, Atlanta

Developed in Atlanta between 1905 and 1936, Virginia-Highland is neighborhood that incorporates a variety of early 20th century architecture. It remains one of Atlanta’s most active and well known historic neighborhoods and was listed in the National Register in 2005.

Teardowns and incompatible infill are having a large impact on Atlanta’s historic neighborhoods. The same character and quality of life that attract new residents are being undermined by incompatible and intrusive construction. This trend is not only affecting Virginia-Highland, but also areas like Ansley Park and Reynoldstown.

Mayor Shirley Franklin and many residents are beginning to address how neighborhoods are being affected by this current trend. Additional local historic districts under the Atlanta Urban Design Commission would help prevent loss of historic resources.

Hand Trading Company Building, Pelham

Mr. J. L. Hand completed construction of the 98,000-square foot Hand Trading Company Building in 1916. With four stories, this building is the centerpiece of downtown Pelham, population 4,100.

The store closed in 1985 and over the last 20 years the building has remained primarily vacant. Currently there are several businesses on the first floor, but the building requires immediate attention.

The building is already in good hands. The Joint Development Authority of Colquitt, Grady, Mitchell and Thomas counties purchased it in 2003. Since then, they have received several grants, but additional funding and identified uses are needed to make this community landmark viable.

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