The Georgia Trust


Above: Before the rehabilitation. Below: The first floor now houses The Fire House Gallery, while the upstairs has been transformed into loft apartments.

Another historic property was saved in March 2004, thanks to The Georgia Trust’s Revolving Fund program.

Originally built as a mercantile store, Louisville’s former fire station and city hall underwent yet another reincarnation. New owners Kathleen Galvin and Helen Aikman have converted the c.1900 structure’s lower level into a art gallery, with the second floor now loft space. Trustee Mary Beverly generously donated the property to the Revolving Fund last year.

At one time, the city offices were located on the second floor and the fire station was located on the first. The 3,740-sq. ft. brick building is located in downtown Louisville, which was established as the capital of Georgia from 1796 to 1806. The town is now county seat of Jefferson County. It is located about 45 miles southwest of Augusta.

Revolving Fund Sparks Community to Action
In this small town just 90 miles east of Macon, friends Helen Aikman and Kathleen Galvin discovered that the key to successfully rehabilitating Louisville’s historic fire station is keeping your eyes and ears open.

“It was clear from the beginning we needed to listen very hard about what the town was about,” says Aikman. “If you're going to try to restore a building, you cannot do it in a vacuum. You have to develop an appreciation for where it sits, who’s owned it before, and what the meaning of the building is to the community in which it’s located.”

For the two partners of SPARE LLC, that meant transforming the former fire station into The Fire House Gallery. Walls of exposed brick were left as is in the front portion of the building, where the main gallery space is now. The station’s newly painted red doors can be thrown open in nice weather for a small coffee shop.

“We tried to pair up the building with a use that would really enliven the downtown, and since there was already a lively arts community, we thought a gallery would really strengthen the town and help it move forward,” Aikman says.

In April 2005, Louisville celebrated the grand opening of The Fire House Gallery.

“Historic preservation, for me, really goes hand-in-hand with revitalization, especially in a rural downtown context. It doesn't really do much good to preserve a building if you're not working hard to enhance the community.”

The two expanded their preservation enthusiasm by launching Friends of Historic Downtown Louisville ( and plaque program to recognize Louisville's historic properties. So far, five building owners have ordered plaques.

The two learned about the fire station through the Revolving Fund ad in The Rambler. “Our interest had always been in public buildings, but we had no idea what the neighborhood or the town would be like,” Aikman says. “So we got there and found that not only the building but the setting was special and really unique. And we were sold.”
The Fire House Gallery celebrated its grand opening in April 2005, in time to participate in the town’s annual Spring Exhibit of the Jefferson County Arts Guild. And the two are amazed what a relatively small investment can do.

“The thing is, these historic properties are really inexpensive. For the price that a lot of people would spend on a luxury car, you can buy a building and make a huge difference.”

Do you know of an endangered historic property in your town? The Georgia Trust may be able to help. Contact Kate Ryan at 404-885-7817.



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