The Georgia Trust

2008 PLACES IN PERIL: SPENCER HOUSE, COLUMBUS

Fragile nature threatens important African American historic resource

The Story: The Spencer House is the 1912 home of William H. Spencer, Columbus’ first Superintendent of Colored Schools, who worked tirelessly to establish an accredited high school for African American students in Columbus. His goal was ultimately achieved when Spencer High School was built in 1930, five years after his death. The house is currently part of Columbus’ African American heritage tour and is owned by the Owlettes, Spencer High’s alumnae association.

The Threat: The Spencer House has received state and federal grants in the past and enjoys strong support from Historic Columbus Foundation; however, the Owlettes are dwindling as the group grows older. The Owlettes use the building for meetings and occasionally open it to the public. The house is located on a busy, highly visible street with safety issues. As hard as they try to keep it maintained, the Owlettes cannot undertake a major restoration.

The Solution: A nationwide challenge for historic house museums is finding creative ways to make viable interpretive programs for the community. At Spencer House, new leadership is working to develop a plan for the structure that will knit together the many local groups interested in preserving this building. They seek to interpret Spencer’s story and provide a self-sustaining anchor for Columbus’ African American heritage tour. The Owlettes are seeking new, younger membership and are open to new approaches and new uses for the house.


 

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