The Georgia Trust for Historic Preservation Announces its 2010 List of State’s 10 ‘Places in Peril’

ATLANTA, Nov. 4, 2009— The Georgia Trust for Historic Preservation released today its 2010 list of 10 Places in Peril in the state.

Sites on the list include: Central State Hospital in Milledgeville; Paradise Gardens in Summerville; Morris Brown College in Atlanta; Canton Grammar School in Cherokee County; Leake archaeological site in Cartersville; Dorchester Academy in Midway; Old Dodge County Jail in Eastman; Ritz Theatre in Thomaston; Herndon Plaza in Atlanta; and, Capricorn Recording Studio in Macon.

“This is the Trust’s fifth 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.

The Trust will provide on-site preservation assistance to each of the 2010 Places in Peril through its Partners in the Field program, funded by grants from the National Trust for Historic Preservation and a number of charitable organizations in Georgia.

Sites that have been placed on previous years’ lists have included: the Wren’s Nest, home of folklore writer Joel Chandler House in Atlanta; Pasaquan, an internationally acclaimed visionary art site in Marion County near Buena Vista; Andalusia, the home of Flannery O’Connor outside of Milledgeville; Cockspur Island Lighthouse off the coast of Savannah; Bibb Mill, a historic textile mill destroyed by fire in Columbus; and the University of Georgia Marine Institute Greenhouse and Administration Building on Sapelo Island. Updates on these sites and others can be found at

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.


Summary Information on each Places in Peril Site

Central State Hospital, Milledgeville
Once the nation’s largest mental hospital and second largest in the world, the campus of Central State Hospital has grown and changed just as much as the study of mental health.  Built in 1842, Central State Hospital was Georgia’s first psychiatric hospital, chartered by the legislature in 1837 with the intent of providing Georgians with mental illness a safe and humane environment.

Some of the buildings have been vacant for years and are suffering from neglect. Many roofs have collapsed, leaving the buildings structurally unstable. Without immediate repairs, deterioration is imminent.

Paradise Gardens, Summerville
In 1961, Howard Finster began his 30-year creation of Paradise Gardens, a folk art site consisting of a maze of buildings, sculptures and displays. The setting is a four-acre swampland that Finster drained by building numerous canals around the property. He built his folk art from found objects and recycled materials ranging from bottles, bathtubs and toilets to bicycle frames and cast-off jewelry.

Since then, Paradise Gardens has attained international pop icon status. Finster and his folk art has been the subject of numerous articles and documentaries. Images of the site can be seen on cover art and in music videos from groups like REM and Talking Heads. Finster and his Gardens were also featured on NBC’s The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson.

The site was built from often fragile materials and is located in the damp climate of a former swamp. Continuous dredging is needed to maintain the canals Finster dug throughout the property. Constant damage from the elements has harmed many of the dozen or so structures.

Morris Brown College, Atlanta
Morris Brown College was the first educational institution in Georgia under sole African American patronage. Built in 1882 to educate freed slaves, Fountain Hall was the first building constructed on campus and is now a National Historic Landmark.

The College educated many outstanding alumni including Isaac Blythers, former President of Atlanta Gas Light Company; Eula L. Adams, Executive Vice President for First Data Corporation; Albert J. Edmonds, Retired Lieutenant General of the United States Air Force; the late Reverend Dr. Hosea Williams, civil rights leader; Thomas J. Byrd, actor of television, film and stage; and James A. McPherson, Pulitzer prize-winning author.

Due to an embezzlement scandal in 2002, the school lost its accreditation and conducts most of its classes online, leaving the buildings vacant and subject to deterioration and vandalism.      

Canton Grammar School, Canton
Built in 1914, the Canton Grammar School is one of the few remaining Neoclassical Revival style schools in Georgia. The school housed grades 1-11 until 1924 when Canton High School was built across the street. The Grammar School building continued to be used as a school until 1974, when a new facility was constructed. The Cherokee County Board of Education reopened the building in 1976 as part of the Bicentennial Celebration.

The school is vacant. The Cherokee County Board of Education does not have plans for the building’s use, although discussions have included possible demolition. Occasional maintenance has occurred over the years, but there has been little, if any, preservation work.

Leake Archaeological Site, Cartersville
Located in the Etowah Valley Historic District in Bartow County, the Leake site is a prehistoric archaeological site dating as far back as 300 BC. The site contains the remnants of at least three earthen mounds and a vast moat; midden deposits with artifacts from everyday and ceremonial activities; former structures; and human burials.

The site began as a small domestic village that developed into one of the most important sites in the Southeast, both as a ceremonial and political hub.
The Leake site extends along many different property parcels, some of which have already been industrially or commercially developed. The area surrounding the site is growing rapidly, so the unoccupied tracts of land in the archaeological site are in imminent danger of being destroyed.

Dorchester Academy, Midway
Founded in 1871 to educate freed slaves, Dorchester Academy provided the only educational opportunity for African American children in Liberty County for many decades.

The only remaining building on the campus is a brick two-story Colonial Revival style structure built in 1934 as a boys’ dormitory. Earlier this year, the school was listed on the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s 11 Most Endangered Historic Places.

In 1963, Dr. Martin Luther King held a meeting at the dormitory to plan the Birmingham march, which would bring international attention to the Civil Rights Movement in the United States.

Significant and widespread failure of the roofing system has resulted in extensive damage to the property, leaving the building structurally unstable. The Dorchester Improvement Association has provided loving care for the building over the decades, but its aging membership coupled with limited resources have made it impossible to make necessary repairs.

Old Dodge County Jail, Eastman
Built in 1897, the Old Dodge County Jail is an elaborately detailed building that served the county for 70 years. Originally, the building had a central three-story tower, which was removed when the roof was replaced. Most of the interior details are intact, including a “hanging room” with a trap door, metal loop for rope, and lever. The jail closed in 1973, when its replacement was built beside it.

The building is suffering from lack of maintenance and funding as the window and roofing systems continue to deteriorate.

Ritz Theatre, Thomaston
Prominently located on the courthouse square in Thomaston, the Ritz Theatre was built during the height of Thomaston’s economic growth.
Throughout its history, the Ritz Theatre has served Thomaston and surrounding towns as a home for the arts as well as an anchor on the downtown square. The Ritz Theatre continues to show first-run movies and serves more than 24,000 patrons annually.

A leak in the front parapet wall has contributed to water penetrating the Art Deco facade.  This water damage is causing tiles to deteriorate, posing a threat to the structure and to pedestrians on the sidewalk below.

With the popularity of home entertainment and multiplex theaters, smaller historic theaters are at risk of becoming obsolete.

Herndon Plaza, Atlanta
For more than 50 years, Herndon Plaza was the headquarters of the Atlanta Life Insurance Company, which was founded by Alonzo Herndon, a former slave and Atlanta’s first African American millionaire.

The plaza consists of two adjoining buildings. The main building was built as a residence in 1892. In 1918, Atlanta Life moved into the building to set up their headquarters. In 1936, a second annex building was constructed, matching the Neoclassical style of the original building. Atlanta Life built a new building in 1980 and moved out of the Plaza. It stood vacant for many years, but in 1997 Atlanta Life sold the building to the Historic District Development Corporation (HDDC).

The buildings have been vandalized over the years and suffer from a lack of maintenance. Custom wood awnings, door frames, marble floors, and hallways are in danger of disrepair. The HDDC is in the process of hiring an architect and contractor for the project and is applying for Historic Preservation Certification to receive federal tax credits.

Capricorn Recording Studio, Macon
During the 1970s, Macon’s Capricorn Recording Studio was a mecca for Southern Rock music legends such as the Allman Brothers Band, Charlie Daniels Band, Dixie Dregs, and the Marshall Tucker Band.
Capricorn Recording Studio filed bankruptcy in 1979. In 1986, the building reopened and operated under several music labels before being purchased by Mercer University in 1999. In 2008, MLK Properties, LLC purchased the former studio with plans to rehabilitate it. On November 3, 2009, the building was foreclosed upon.

The property is located within sight of downtown Macon’s tourism and museum district, but the surrounding area appears depressed and unsafe due to numerous vacant lots and boarded-up buildings covered with graffiti.