The Georgia Trust

2009 PLACES IN PERIL: BATTERY BACKUS

Story/Significance: During the late 19th through mid 20th-centuries, batteries like Backus were vital components of theUnited States’ coastal defense system. Six individual gun batteries, with construction dating from 1885 to 1905, contributed significantly to Fort Screven’s coastal defense success during the Endicott Period. The 1898 Battery Backus protected the entrance to the Savannah River. Battery Backus, five additional gun batteries, the Tybee Island Light Station, and several hundred military structures were included in the 1984 Fort Screven National Historic District designation.

Threat/Challenge: Should Battery Backus be developed inappropriately, a significant component of the Fort Screven National Historic District will be compromised.  A loss or significant alteration to these gun batteries weakens the uniform criteria sited in the District designation. Most recently, the downturn in the Island’s economy has lessened the pressure to develop these parcels of land, but this will reverse as the economy recovers.

Progress: On November 11, 2008, The Georgia Trust, Tybee Island Historical Society and the Fort Screven Preservation Organization hosted a well-attended spotlight event to draw attention to the imperiled status of the Battery.  There is now an ongoing effort to identify an individual or entity to purchase Battery Backus.  Currentlythe owner has applied for a permit from the DNR to develop two single family residences on the Battery as proposed in 2007. 

Impact/Outcome: The listing of Battery Backus as a 2009 Place in Peril has helped move forward the creation of local historic districts on Tybee Island and the implementation of a Fort Screven Historic Design Review Commission.

Next Steps: The Georgia Trust, along with local partners such as the Fort Screven Preservation Organization and the Tybee Island Historical Society, will continue to oppose insensitive development for the Battery and will work for its protection. 

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