By Maria Saporta
East Point is gaining national fame – not necessarily for the right reasons.
The National Trust for Historic Preservation announced late Tuesday that it has placed East Point’s Historic Civic Block on its 2015 list of America’s 11 Most Endangered Historic Places.
The Historic Civic Block includes the East Point City Hall, the City Auditorium, the City Library and Victory Park – a contiguous block that has been the heart of East Point since the 1930s.
According to the Trust, the area is seeing renewed calls for private development that could lead to the unnecessary demolition of the city’s four iconic historic properties. With no plans for protection and the constant threat of demolition through neglect, the future for these historic buildings remains uncertain.
The annual list from the National Trust spotlights important examples of the nation’s architectural, cultural and natural heritage that are at risk of destruction or irreparable damage. More than 250 sites have been on the list over its 28-year history, and in that time, only a handful of listed sites have been lost.
Preservationists hope that the East Point Historic Civic Block also will be saved.
“Located at the heart of the predominantly African American community of East Point, the East Point Historic Civic Block is a rare cohesive example of civic architecture from the 1930s,” said Stephanie Meeks, president of the National Trust for Historic Preservation. “The block, which has borne witness to decades of the community’s history, is suffering from neglect. Along with our partners at the East Point Preservation Alliance and the Georgia Trust for Historic Preservation, we encourage the City of East Point to consider alternatives to demolishing these iconic community landmarks.”
The block’s historic buildings represent architectural styles that were popular in the South during the Depression era, forming a rarely seen cohesive block of civic architecture that tells the story of not only of this one Georgia community, but also of towns across the state built in that same era, according to the National Trust.
Until a few years ago, most of these buildings were a functional part of the city government and played important roles in the community. They are now vandalized, burglarized and left to deteriorate, the release from the Trust continued.
On Tuesday evening, a couple of men sat on a bench at Victory Park. Ken pointed to a large tree stump on the other side of the park and said one of its branches had fallen on him.
Much of East Point’s city business takes place at another building, they said. Movies sometimes are shown in the auditorium, and it was unclear whether the library was still open.
The other 10 most endangered places on the 2015 National Trust list in alphabetical order are:
- G. Gaston Motel – Birmingham, Ala. This motel played host to Martin Luther King Jr. and served as a “war room” for leaders of the Civil Rights Movement. Now vacant and badly deteriorating, it can be restored as part of a new Civil Rights center.
- Carrollton Courthouse – New Orleans, La.Built to serve Jefferson Parish before the city of Carrollton was annexed by New Orleans in 1874, this is one of the most significant landmarks outside of the French Quarter. After decades of use as a school building, it is now vacant and for sale with no preservation protections in place.
- Chautauqua Amphitheater – Chautauqua, N.Y.A beloved National Historic Landmark that has occupied a special place in American culture for well over 100 years, the “Amp” is threatened by the Chautauqua Institution’s plans to demolish it.
- Fort Worth Stockyards – Fort Worth, Texas. This historic district attracts millions of visitors each year to experience Fort Worth’s emergence as a center of the American livestock industry. A large-scale redevelopment project would forever alter the character of the stockyards historic district.
- The Grand Canyon – Ariz.A beloved international icon and a sacred place for several Native American tribes, the Grand Canyon is threatened by development proposals ranging from tourist resorts to mining.
- Little Havana – Miami, Fla.A symbol of the immigrant experience and the American melting pot, Little Havana’s scale and character is threatened by zoning changes and lack of protection for its many historic buildings.
- Oak Flat – Superior, Arizona.A sacred site to the San Carlos Apache and several other Native American tribes, Oak Flat is threatened due to a land exchange provision included in the National Defense Authorization Act of 2015 that would open the site up to mining.
- Old U.S. Mint – San Francisco, Calif.A National Historic Landmark built in 1874 and one of the very few downtown buildings to survive the 1906 earthquake and fire, the Old U.S. Mint is increasingly at risk as decades of neglect and inattention take their toll.
- South Street Seaport – New York, N.Y.The focal point of the early maritime industry in New York, the South Street Seaport today features some of the oldest architecture in the city. A tower and other development proposals threaten to dramatically alter a historic neighborhood that has endured for generations.
- The Factory – West Hollywood, Calif.The Factory was built in 1929 to house the Mitchell Camera Corporation. After being adapted to serve many other uses, The Factory re-opened in 1974 as Studio One, an influential disco for gay men that became a hotbed for celebrity performances and AIDS activism. It is currently threatened by a development proposal.