ATLANTA, Nov. 14, 2007 — The Georgia Trust for Historic Preservation released today its 2008 list of 10 Places in Peril in the state.
Sites on the list include: the Meriwether County Jail in Greenville; the A.L. Miller Senior High School for Girls in Macon; the Old Clinton Historic District in Gray; the Spencer House in Columbus; the UGA Marine Institute Greenhouse and Administration Building on Sapelo Island; the Trinity C.M.E. Church in Augusta; the Adam-Strain Building in Darien; the Sunbury Historic Colonial Town Site; the Cockspur Island Lighthouse in Tybee Island; and, The Castle in Atlanta.
“This is the Trust’s third annual Places in Peril list,” said Greg Paxton, president and CEO of the Trust. “The locations chosen are not only in peril themselves, but represent a group of similar threatened historic places and represent the broad range of historic resources throughout Georgia. We must never forget that once a historic place is gone, it’s gone forever,” Paxton said.
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.
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 2007 list, which was announced in November 2006, included: Cherokee structures in North Georgia; the City Auditorium in Waycross; the Gilmer County Courthouse; the Wren’s Nest and Herndon Home, both 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.
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 102 Georgia Main Street cities and encourages neighborhood revitalization; trains teachers in 63 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.
Editor’s Note: Summary information on each 2008 Places in Peril follows. For additional background material and more information on each site including downloadable high-resolution images, please go to http://georgiatrust.org/preservation_resources/pip2008.htm.
President and CEO Greg Paxton is available for in-person and telephone interviews. Call 404-885-7802.
Summary Information on each Places in Peril Site
Meriwether County Jail, Greenville
Located just off the courthouse square, the Meriwether County Jail is one of Greenville’s earliest structures. The 1896 modified Italianate villa style building features a three-story hanging tower visible from the ground and provides a reminder of an earlier form of capital punishment.
Like many historic county jails statewide, this jail is not capable of serving its original purpose, suffers from deterioration and needs structural attention.
Communities have successfully used former jails for other purposes. Meriwether County Jail could be used in a variety of ways such as a visitor/welcome center, museum, archives, office space, or a combination of these to ensure its sustainability.
A.L. Miller Senior High School for Girls, Macon
The 1930 A.L. Miller Senior High School for Girls sits in the middle of a historic neighborhood in Macon that is in much need of revitalization. It once served as an important educational center for Winship Heights/Montpelier area, and is owned by the Bibb County Board of Education.
Abandoned neighborhood schools have become a statewide problem. Neighborhoods are becoming threatened by these former anchor institutions that now sit vacant, making revitalization more difficult.
The structure’s large size and good condition make it a strong candidate for adaptive use. With support from the school system and superintendent, there is a strong likelihood that its rehabilitation would have a significant catalytic effect on the surrounding area.
Old Clinton Historic District, Gray
Established in 1807, the community of Clinton served as an economic and cultural center for the Georgia frontier. Buildings date from 1808-1835 and together provide a rare example of a largely intact Georgia rural frontier village that combines commercial and residential structures.
The corridor of the south side of US 129 has been lined with strip commercial development within the last 10 years. Recently the city approved a bypass that will come within several hundred yards of the district.
Despite the encroachment of the bypass, Old Clinton still has potential to remain a livable community while attracting compatible, high-quality growth.
Spencer House, Columbus
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 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.
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.
University of Georgia (UGA) Marine Institute Greenhouse and Administration Building, Sapelo Island
The UGA Marine Institute Greenhouse and Administration Building on Sapelo Island were built by Howard E. Coffin, automobile pioneer and principal landowner of Sapelo Island from 1912-1934.
The greenhouse complex has not been used since 1976 and is quickly deteriorating. Overgrown trees grow through the roof as much of the glass is broken or missing.
The administrative building is now vacant and has not been secured against the elements.
A rehabilitated greenhouse complex would have many potential uses, which would attract more visitors to the island and increase the demand for accommodations.
Trinity C.M.E. Church, Augusta
Constructed in Augusta between 1889-1894, Trinity Church is the mother church of the Christian Methodist Episcopal (CME) denomination in the United States. Remodeled in 1920-1923, it is the last remaining building in a historic 19th-century African American neighborhood.
The building is vacant and deteriorating and is located near a portion of the Augusta Canal that is marked to be redeveloped. The area surrounding the church has already been cleared for development. The roof is in very poor condition, and there is a problem with vagrants.
Preserving the church will help ensure that plans for nearby development will be sensitive and compatible with the historic structure and nearby neighborhoods.
Adam-Strain Building, Darien
A rare example of historic tabby construction, the 1813 Adam-Strain Building in Darien was built as a waterfront warehouse, survived looting and fire in 1863, and was refurbished in 1870.
Like many small coastal communities, Darien has a low tax base and faces strong development pressure. After being denied a demolition permit in 2006, the owner put the building up for sale at a speculative price. Nearby dense residential development and the recent demolition of the eighteenth-century D’Antignac House have caused local concern to reach a new high.
The first priorities for saving this building are the purchase of this rare survivor and the development of a vision for its use as part of Darien’s heritage tourism program.
Sunbury Historic Colonial Town Site, Sunbury
Founded by the Puritans, the 1758-1864 archaeological site of Sunbury in Liberty County was once an important colonial port, trading regionally with Savannah and also with New England and the Caribbean colonies. At one time, this bustling seaport rivaled the port at nearby Savannah. Later abandoned, Sunbury is one of the few large colonial towns that have not been obliterated or buried under later development.
Now high density residential development is taking place on the site; ten years ago one of its two known historic cemeteries was partially bulldozed. The owner of a critical 40-acre tract agreed to donate it but died before changing his will. There are still important areas of the town remaining.
This is a high priority project for the Society for Georgia Archaeology, which has identified a six-point plan to encourage wider community involvement in preservation initiatives directed at Sunbury.
Cockspur Island Lighthouse, Tybee Island
The northernmost of only five remaining lighthouses along the Georgia Coast, Cockspur Island Lighthouse is part of the National Park Service-operated Fort Pulaski National Monument. Decommissioned in 1909, it remained in private use and was re-lit earlier this year.
Reconciling the changing nature of coastal land with the permanence of structures such as lighthouses is challenging and expensive. Erosion, caused by the ongoing dredging of the Savannah River, has significantly decreased the structure’s protective land mass and accelerated structural deterioration.
Fort Pulaski Superintendent Charlie Fenwick has put together a multi-pronged work plan for fundraising and the structure’s preservation. The National Park Service and Army Corps of Engineers have committed to providing preliminary assessments and engineering drawings; they may also be able to provide additional funding. Chatham County will match 20% of the entire project, and a local “friends of the lighthouse” group is forming to raise money to match public funding and to establish a long-term maintenance fund.
The Castle, Atlanta
Built 1909-1910 by Ferdinand McMillan as his retirement home, The Castle adjoins large Midtown office buildings and the Woodruff Arts Center on Atlanta’s Peachtree and 15th Streets.
Threatened with demolition in the mid-1980s, the building was called “a hunk of junk” by Atlanta Mayor Andrew Young in June 1986, sparking the strengthening of the local preservation ordinance.
There is little activity at the property as it stands empty and deteriorating. Purchased in 2002 for $1 million, the property currently has a $4 million asking price. Roof tiles are missing, and water is starting to damage the interior.
The building is of great concern for the local preservation community and surrounding Midtown area. The Atlanta Midtown Alliance is forming a task force to help stabilize the structure and encourage its revitalization.