ATLANTA, Oct. 15, 2008 — The Georgia Trust for Historic Preservation released today its 2009 list of 10 Places in Peril in the state.
Sites on the list include: the Mary Ray Memorial School in Newnan; the Crum & Forster Building in Atlanta; the Rock House in Thomson; the Campbell Chapel AME Church in Americus; the archaeological remains of Fort Daniel in Buford; Metcalf Township in Thomas County; Battery Backus at Tybee Island; the Sallie Davis House in Milledgeville; the John Berrien House in Savannah; and, Bibb Mill in Columbus.
“This is the Trust’s fourth annual Places in Peril list,” said Mark C. McDonald, president and CEO of the Trust. “We hope the list will continue to draw attention to a broad range of Georgia’s imperiled historic resources by highlighting ten representative sites,” McDonald 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.
This year, the Trust will provide on-site preservation assistance to each of the 2009 Places in Peril through its Partners in the Field program, funded by grants from the National Trust for Historic Preservation and a number of Georgia charitable organizations.
Sites on the Trust’s 2008 list, which was announced in November 2007, included: 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 in Liberty County; the Cockspur Island Lighthouse in Chatham County; and, The Castle in Atlanta. Updates on these sites can be found at www.georgiatrust.org.
The Georgia Trust for Historic Preservation is one of the country’s largest statewide, nonprofit preservation organizations. 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 2009 Places in Peril follows. For additional background material and more information on each site including downloadable high-resolution images, please go to http://www.georgiatrust.org/preservation_resources/pip2009.htm.
President and CEO Mark C. McDonald is available for in-person and telephone interviews. Call 404-885-7802.
Summary Information on each Places in Peril Site
Mary Ray Memorial School, Newnan-Coweta County
Built in 1909, Mary Ray Memorial School served the community of Raymond for educational purposes, public meetings, public worship, and entertainment. By 1950 the school had closed, and the building became the Raymond Community Center. Diminishing interest in the building contributed to its neglect and lack of maintenance.
Recently, a group of concerned citizens installed a new roof, made foundation repairs, and cleared vegetation from the property. The school has been stabilized and is now in need of assessments and a preservation plan to help guide future work.
Crum & Forster Building, Atlanta
Built in 1928 as the southern branch of the Crum and Forster Insurance Company, this office building is a rare example of classically designed architecture in Midtown Atlanta.
The Georgia Tech Foundation purchased the Crum and Forster Building in 2007. In May 2008 the Foundation applied for a Special Administrative Permit to demolish the building.
After several well attended public meetings and the circulation of a petition signed by over 2000 people opposing the building’s demolition, Atlanta’s Bureau of Planning denied the Georgia Tech Foundation’s request. Recently, the Crum and Forster Building was nominated as a local landmark building, which would further protect it from demolition. Both actions currently are under appeal.
Rock House, Thomson
Built in the 1780’s, the Rock House is recognized as the oldest surviving stone house in Georgia. The house remained privately owned until 1966, when the Wrightsborough Quaker Community Foundation purchased and restored the house with the intention of using it as a museum.
Now the house is closed, vacant and unstaffed. Located in rural McDuffie County with no occupied houses near it, there is a minimal amount of security. Vandalism and a lack of funding available for maintenance have added to the overall threat to this historic structure.
In December 2007, the Watson-Brown Foundation Junior Board issued an emergency grant for the repair of windows, historic sashes and doors, but the house is still in need of a solid overall preservation plan that addresses use, maintenance and security.
Campbell Chapel AME Church
Campbell Chapel AME Church has served Americus’ oldest black congregation since 1920. This Romanesque Revival Church with Queen Anne style details was designed by Georgia’s first registered African American architect Louis H. Persley.
The church’s structural integrity is threatened by a lack of maintenance. The twisting and sagging of interior trusses and beams are the result of deteriorated mortar and faulty flashing at the bell tower. Recently the 700-pound bell collapsed from its rotted ceiling members and crashed to the ground floor.
The small, elderly congregation recently raised funds for roof repairs, but the high cost of restoration remains the church’s biggest obstacle to preserving their historic church.
Fort Daniel, Buford
Built in the late 18th century, the archaeological site of Fort Daniel was once a frontier fort located on Hog Mountain in Gwinnett County. Archaeologists have unearthed artifacts such as historic pottery, black bottle glass, musket balls, musket flint, wrought nails, and an 18th-century Spanish coin.
The property and its surrounding lots are currently for sale. A developer has already sought a zoning change to allow commercial development, which would destroy this significant archaeological site.
A group of interested parties have formed with the intention of purchasing the archaeological site. With support from the community and at the county level, this group plans to purchase the property and create an archaeological park that would include a museum, lab, and classroom space.
Metcalf Township, Thomas County
Established in the late nineteenth-century, the town of Metcalf was once a center for commerce and trade of agricultural products during the railroad era. The town has many examples of late 18th-century commercial and residential Victorian-era, Romanesque Revival style, and vernacular architecture.
Since the 1920’s, Metcalf has endured being unincorporated, the loss of rail transportation and the installation of a large loud lumber operation. Recently it has caught the attention of developers, due to its low cost of land and proximity to Tallahassee.
The possibility of new inappropriate development threatens a town already suffering from neglect, inappropriate infill, lack of building codes that address mobile homes, and no sewer system.
Thomasville Landmarks and the Thomas County Commission have agreed to support any preservation efforts and seek to protect the historic integrity of this small, rural, south Georgia township.
Battery Backus, Tybee Island
Built in 1898 as part of Fort Screven, Battery Backus played a vital role in the U.S.’s coastal defense system, protecting the entrance to the Savannah River against enemy vessels.
Currently Battery Backus is privately owned and threatened with development. Three of the six batteries along Tybee Island are unrecognizable following the construction of private residences on top of the batteries.
The Fort Screven Preservation Organization, The Tybee Island Historical Society, and other groups are working to ensure public access to the batteries; however, development pressure looms over this seaside property.
Sallie Davis House, Milledgeville
The Sallie Davis House is the 1890 home of African-American education pioneer Sallie Ellie Davis, who taught academics as well as life skills to African-American children in Milledgeville. Davis owned the house from 1912 until her death in 1950. The house was continuously used as a residence until 1989, when the Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia purchased it. Since then, the house has been vacant and suffering from neglect, weathering and vandalism.
In 2003, a Certified Local Government grant was awarded to the City of Milledgeville for the Sallie Davis House, which funded an assessment and rehabilitation plan. Recently, several involved groups have met to discuss possible future uses of the Sallie Davis House.
John Berrien House, Savannah
The Berrien House is a federal style building in Savannah built circa 1800 for Revolutionary War officer Major John Berrien.
Located on Savannah’s main commercial street, the Berrien House has been vacant for more than twenty years as several demolition permits have been sought and denied. Lack of maintenance and failed rehabilitation efforts have left the severely deteriorated building at risk of demolition by neglect.
A mortgage foreclosure has left the house in the ownership of a bank that is currently exploring and evaluating the economic feasibility of the building’s rehabilitation.
Bibb Mill, Columbus
During the early 20th-century, Bibb Manufacturing expanded this 1898 mill and developed the surrounding community of Bibb City for its mill workers.
Following the company’s bankruptcy in the mid 1990’s, Bibb Mill was purchased by a private developer. The current owner has been searching for a way to rehabilitate the mill and has rehabilitated several historic buildings on the site as a conference facility. However, several warehouses have been demolished and last fall the owner received a demolition permit for most of the main mill, a 676,000 square-foot structure.
The owner has met with The National Trust, The Georgia Trust, and other advisors to explore feasible development options and demolition alternatives, but its immense size makes rehabilitation a multi-phase, complicated project.