As we celebrate the Georgia Trust’s 50th anniversary, we take great pride in highlighting the work of the Trust’s West Atlanta Preservation Initiative. The West Atlanta Preservation Initiative was launched in March of 2018 with the purpose of providing sustainably rehabilitated affordable housing. Following the rehabilitation of each historic home, preservation easements are applied to protect the buildings from demolition and changes to the property that would impact their historic integrity.
This initiative stands out as a testament to the Georgia Trust’s commitment to finding sustainable solutions to fit the preservation needs of Georgians and to preserve the state’s cultural landscape. The Georgia Trust for Historic Preservation partnered with the Atlanta Land Trust, a non-profit organization committed to the management of long-term affordable housing, to sell these sustainably rehabilitated homes to buyers who meet a specific income limit. This has provided an opportunity for many first-time homeowners to purchase a property in a historically significant neighborhood that has felt the effects of gentrification, ensuring its long-term affordability.
So far, three homes have been rehabilitated and sold under the initiative. Each of these homes is located in a historically significant neighborhood in West Atlanta, which has been home to many notable African American professional and working-class families. Once prominent neighborhoods, these areas have felt the impact of white flight, systemic disinvestment, and now the onset of gentrification. The creation of long-term affordable housing options, that are sustainable and sensitively restored respect the decades of history home to these significant spaces.
In 2022, the initiative rehabilitated a shotgun home in the historic Pittsburgh neighborhood of Atlanta. The Pittsburgh neighborhood was chartered in 1883 by formerly enslaved people and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Here, many Black-owned businesses flourished, and this area became home to Clark Atlanta University. This neighborhood features architecturally distinctive shotgun homes and bungalows. The rehabilitation of the shotgun home at 785 Coleman Street SW is an exciting addition to the initiative and has been sold to a buyer through the Atlanta Land Trust.
In 2020, the trust completed the rehabilitation of and sold two affordable, single-family homes in West Atlanta. The two houses—located at 1138 Harwell Street, in Washington Park, and 1575 Mozley Place in Mozley Park— were sold through a partnership with the Atlanta Land Trust to ensure permanent affordability to buyers who met qualifying income requirements based on area median income averages. In 2018, the Georgia Trust purchased both houses and an undeveloped lot from the family of Harriet and Edward Johnson. Mr. Johnson (1916-2019), a ground instructor in the Tuskegee Airmen during World War II, moved to Atlanta after the war and became the city’s first African American licensed electrician. Mrs. Johnson (1921-2002), a graduate of Spelman College, earned a master’s degree in education and taught kindergarten in Atlanta Public Schools. Both houses underwent a sustainable rehabilitation and served as a pilot project for a residential-scale Earthcraft Sustainable Preservation program, a set of construction standards and guidelines created by the Georgia Trust and Southface to make historic buildings more energy efficient. In 2019, the Georgia Trust donated the undeveloped lot to Habitat for Humanity, which will allow for the construction of an affordable house.
The rehabilitation of these residences through the West Atlanta Preservation Initiative stands as a special example of what the conservation of historic buildings can do for the preservation and revitalization of culturally significant neighborhoods. As we celebrate the Georgia Trust’s 50th anniversary, we also celebrate the active role that intentional and sustainable rehabilitation can play in the revitalization of growing communities.
Support the work of the Georgia Trust and programs like our West Atlanta Preservation Initiative by Becoming a Member today! You can also show your support as we near the end of the 50th anniversary of The Georgia Trust by making a Year-End Gift.
See more about the history of the Georgia Trust on our 50th Anniversary blog Celebrating 50.