By Maria Saporta
The Georgia Trust for Historic Preservation released its 12th annual 10 Places in Peril – shining the light on historic treasures that need attention.
“We hope the list will continue to bring preservation solutions to Georgia’s imperiled historic resources by highlighting 10 representative sites,” said Mark McDonald, president and CEO of the Georgia Trust.
The following structures are on the 2017 list:
- Atlanta Central Library in Atlanta (Fulton County)
- Gaines Hall, Furber Cottage, Towns House and Hamilton House in Atlanta (Fulton County)
- Lyon Farmhouse in Lithonia (DeKalb County)
- Mimosa Hall in Roswell (Fulton County)
- Calvary Episcopal Church and Lee Street Bridge in Americus (Sumter County)
- Chivers House in Dublin (Laurens County)
- Marble YMCA Building in Columbus (Muscogee County)
- John Rountree Log House in Twin City (Emanuel County)
- Charles T. Walker House in Augusta (Richmond County)
- Old Zebulon Elementary School building in Zebulon (Pike County)
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 list has led to several preservation successes.
Sites that have been placed on previous years’ lists include:
- Hancock County Courthouse in Sparta, which was rebuilt after a fire destroyed much of the interior in 2014;
- Pasaquan, a visionary art site in Buena Vista, received a thorough restoration funded by the Kohler Foundation and is now operated by Columbus State University;
- the A.L Miller School in Macon is being transformed into affordable housing;
- the Rock House in Thomson is now owned by McDuffie County and will receive nearly $450,000 in SPLOST funding;
- the John Berrien House in Savannah is now home to the business office of the Queensborough National Bank & Trust; and
- Capricorn Recording Studio in Macon was acquired by Mercer University to become a local music incubator.
Updates on these sites and others can be found at www.georgiatrust.org.
Founded in 1973, the Georgia Trust for Historic Preservation works for the preservation and revitalization of Georgia’s diverse historic resources and advocates their appreciation, protection and use.
As one of the country’s leading statewide, nonprofit preservation organizations, the Trust generates community revitalization by finding buyers for endangered properties acquired by its Revolving Fund and raises awareness of other endangered historic resources through an annual listing of Georgia’s “Places in Peril.”
Atlanta Central Library in Atlanta (Fulton County)
Constructed in 1980 as an internationally significant example of brutalist architecture, Atlanta Central Library was the last building designed by renowned architect Marcel Breuer. The library was built for a capacity of 1,000 users and one million volumes, and includes a 300-seat theater and secluded outdoor courtyard.
As a result of the Atlanta-Fulton Public Library System’s Master Plan of 2005, a bond referendum passed to fund the construction of a new central library. With the bonds due to be issued in 2016, the possible demolition of Breuer’s library grabbed the headlines. After much public outcry and a reevaluation of the existing building, the Fulton County Commission voted in August 2016 to use the library bond to fund the building’s rehabilitation instead.
Rehabilitation plans are pending, and there remains great concern that the project may not respect Breuer’s original design. Attention must be paid to make sure this architectural icon is rehabilitated appropriately inside and out and that funds are allocated for proper maintenance in the future.
Gaines Hall, Furber Cottage, Towns House and Hamilton House in Atlanta (Fulton County)
Gaines Hall, Furber Cottage, Towns House and the Hamilton House are four significant structures located within the Atlanta University Center Historic District; they stand vacant and deteriorating. Gaines Hall, built in 1869, was the first permanent building on the Atlanta University campus. Furber Cottage, built 30 years later, served as a dormitory. The 1910 Towns House was home to George A. Towns, a professor at Atlanta University and close friend to W.E.B. DuBois. Towns’ daughter, Grace Towns Hamilton, became the first African-American woman elected to a state legislature in the Deep South. She and her husband built the ranch style Hamilton House in 1950.
Morris Brown College occupied the original Atlanta University campus from 1932 until its bankruptcy resulted in the sale of portions of the property in 2014. With the city’s focus on revitalizing the surrounding Vine City neighborhood, the pressure to raze vacant historic buildings for future development is a serious threat. Additionally a fire in 2015 considerably damaged historic Gaines Hall. These significant historic buildings represent a century of African-American history in Atlanta and present an exciting opportunity to be a part of the city’s revitalization efforts on the westside.
Lyon Farmhouse in Lithonia (DeKalb County)
One of the oldest houses in DeKalb County, the Lyon Farmhouse was built by Joseph Emmanuel Lyon, a former British soldier who was awarded 100 acres for taking the Oath of Allegiance after being captured and serving with the patriots during the American Revolution. Lyon originally built a log cabin on the property in the 1820s which was expanded in 1853 and again in 1893, creating the structure that stands today. Built in a vernacular architecture style, the house and various outbuildings reflect a self-sustaining farm where cotton, apples, muscadines, pears, lemons, sorghum and bees were a part of life.
Ownership of the house was transferred to DeKalb County in 2003, though descendants of Joseph Lyon continuously occupied the property until 2007. The property is within the Arabia Mountain Heritage Area and a PATH trail passes nearby, but the house suffers from continued vandalism and deterioration as a result of deferred maintenance. Funding to stabilize the buildings and a comprehensive plan for their reuse is needed in order to save this valuable site.
Mimosa Hall in Roswell (Fulton County)
Designed for Roswell founding father John Dunwoody, this Greek Revival style home was built in 1840 and rebuilt in 1847 following a devastating fire. Mimosa Hall was named for its many mimosa trees by a later owner, General A. J. Hansell, prior to being purchased in 1916 by noted architect Neel Reid, who renovated the house and its iconic gardens. After Reid’s death, ownership of the property stayed with his family until 1937. In 1947, Granger Hansell, great-grandson of the home’s former owner, purchased Mimosa Hall and it has remained in the Hansell family ever since.
Mimosa Hall, along with 21 undeveloped acres, is currently on the market. The significant acreage of the estate in historic downtown Roswell creates an elevated threat of development. The Georgia Trust desires to assist the owners in finding a preservation-minded buyer who will respect the property’s historic significance and provide free technical assistance to potential buyers, ensuring the preservation of Mimosa Hall, its lush landscape and exquisite gardens for years to come.
Calvary Episcopal Church and Lee Street Bridge in Americus (Sumter County)
Calvary Episcopal Church was organized in 1864 as the second effort to establish an Episcopal parish in Americus. The current church building was completed in 1921 under the leadership of Reverend James Bolan Lawrence and renowned architect Ralph Adams Cram, who was known for his Gothic Revival style ecclesiastical buildings.
Calvary Episcopal Church is surrounded by a historic residential area and is adjacent to an active railroad that passes under the historic Lee Street Bridge next to the church.
The Calvary Episcopal Church and surrounding historic properties are threatened by the proposed demolition and replacement of the Lee Street Bridge. The replacement bridge, as proposed by the Georgia Department of Transportation, would be elevated to accommodate double-stacked railcars below. An elevated structure would have a significant adverse impact on the neighboring historic properties, especially the Calvary Episcopal Church.
Chivers House in Dublin (Laurens County)
The Chivers House was constructed in 1920 on Dublin’s prominent Bellevue Avenue for Mr. and Mrs. O. L. Chivers. The Chivers were well respected and beloved philanthropic members of the Dublin community, with Mrs. Chivers serving as a member of the Daughters of the American Revolution and also as the first woman to serve on the Laurens County Library Board of Directors. During the Depression, the Chivers opened their home to struggling teachers in the area.
The Spanish Revival style house retains much of its original historic material, including mantels, flooring, windows and intricate interior trim, but it has remained unoccupied for the past five years. After serving the Dublin Chapter of the American Red Cross, the house was acquired by the First Baptist Church which has no immediate plans for its rehabilitation and use. Without the church having a plan and with their past consideration of demolishing the building, the future of the Chivers House remains in jeopardy.
Marble YMCA Building in Columbus (Muscogee County)
The 1903 YMCA building was the first permanent headquarters of the YMCA of Metropolitan Columbus, a city with the third oldest Y in the country with membership dating to 1856. With construction made possible through the support of native Columbus philanthropist George Foster Peabody, the grand marble building was modeled after the founding YMCA organization’s building in London and is the only marble Y in the United States.
The building was in use until 2010 when a new facility was constructed a few blocks north. The historic Columbus YMCA building is now owned by the First Presbyterian Church, which has no known plans for the building’s restoration or use. Although they have attempted to sell the building, it remains in a state of disrepair and increasing deterioration. Appropriate alternative uses for the building will help insure that this magnificent building once again contributes to the community.
John Rountree Log House in Twin City (Emanuel County)
This log house on the edge of Twin City, Georgia, was constructed in the northern reaches of Georgia’s pine barren region in approximately 1832 by John Rountree, on land his family was awarded in the 1805 Georgia Land Lottery. The county remained a place of small subsistence farms until the railroad came through in the 1860s. The Rountree cabin represents that early era of exploration and settlement in Georgia. It is also a rare example of early 19th century log saddlebag construction and displays an unusual method of construction in its unique diamond notching.
Currently owned by the City of Twin City, the log house suffers from lack of maintenance and awareness. While the cabin is sound, rehabilitation is needed for it to be reopened to the public. The current city administration is dedicated to the rehabilitation and maintenance of this historic Georgia resource.
Charles T. Walker House in Augusta (Richmond County)
Charles T. Walker was born a slave in 1858 and went on to become one of Augusta’s most notable ministers, serving the African-American community throughout the late 19th and early 20th centuries. He founded Tabernacle Baptist Church in Augusta but was known worldwide. His fame brought many of Augusta’s winter tourists to his pews, including John D. Rockefeller and President William Howard Taft.
The house was built in 1895, and the family resided in it until 1928, seven years after Charles Walker’s death.
The house is located within the historic African-American Laney-Walker Neighborhood, which has seen increased abandonment and neglect. One of the few residential buildings on the main boulevard, the property is threatened by vacancy, neglect and surrounding development pressure.
Old Zebulon Elementary School building in Zebulon (Pike County)
In 1925, the citizens of Zebulon passed a bond for $30,000 to build a new elementary school and to remodel an existing high school. Zebulon Elementary opened on September 13, 1926 and ran continuously until the mid-1970s when it was converted into storage for the school district. In 2010, the Downtown Development Authority purchased it and later transferred ownership to the city. Having served many residents of Pike County over the years, Zebulon Elementary strongly represents the community and its collective history.
The city currently owns the school, though immense damage has occurred over the past 25 years as a result of neglect, including a recently collapsed portion of the roof. Vandalism remains a constant threat to the building. Community members fear that the building could be lost soon and local partner groups are rallying to find an adaptive reuse so that the building will once again contribute to the community.