Wednesday, November 25, 2009

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A Tree Grows in Atlanta

Today marked a sad event in Rhodes Hall's history; the great oak that has resided quietly in the front yard for over 125 years is being cut today. The tree has been a part of Rhodes Hall from the beginning, evolving from nothing more than a twig alongside Peachtree Street about 20 years before the house was completed in 1904 into the full grown giant that it is today. Despite its healthy appearance with its lush overhanging branches and its full canopy of green, arborists determined the tree had significant structural root decay and posed a great risk of falling on Rhodes Hall. So with that being said, this gentle oak has grown alongside Peachtree Street and been witness of amazing feats of change. Peachtree Street loses one of its largest and oldest trees today.
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A Thanksgiving Member Spotlight

Georgia Trust members dine at the 2009 Washington Fall Ramble

This Thanksgiving, the staff of the Georgia Trust is thankful for many things, but above all we are thankful for our wonderful members! The support and encouragement you give us enables us to continue our efforts to preserve Georgia's historic resources. We are truly grateful for our many members who have continued to support us throughout these difficult times and who have helped to keep preservation an important issue in Georgia and the United States.

Whether you are a Rambler, racer, board member, preservation professional, history buff, or a concern citizen, we appreciate your contribution and involvement in our efforts to reclaim, restore, and revitalize our state's historic treasures.

The staff of the Georgia Trust wishes you and your family a wonderful Thanksgiving and a happy holiday season!

Friday, November 6, 2009

2010 Places in Peril Coverage - Dorchester Academy

Posted: November 5, 2009 - 7:07am - By Wayne Hodgin - Savannah Morning News
The Georgia Trust for Historic Preservation has placed Dorchester Academy in Liberty County on its list of most endangered places in the state.
The site in Midway, which has in the past served as a school for newly freed slaves and a haven for Civil Rights-era leaders, including the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., is in various states of deterioration.
The school, founded in 1871, earlier this year was listed on the National Trust for Historic Preservation's 11 Most Endangered Historic Places.
Mark McDonald, president and CEO of the Georgia Trust, said the a list exists to provide awareness for historical sites.
"When the Georgia Trust puts a site on its list, it's not a 'Hall of Shame' moniker," he said. "It serves as a tool of awareness and encourages communities to step up and preserve the site by finding financial resources and other partnerships to save it from peril."
The school joins nine other sites across the state on the 2010 Places in Peril list, which also includes Central State Hospital in Milledgeville, Paradise Gardens in Summerville, Old Dodge County Jail in Eastman and the Ritz Theatre in Thomaston.
This is the fifth year the Georgia Trust has issued its Places in Peril list.
In previous years, the list has included local sites, including the Cockspur Island Lighthouse, Battery Backus on Tybee Island and the John Berrien House in Savannah.
There were 24 nominations this year, McDonald said.
"Before we place a site on our list, we require a local sponsoring group that is not only willing to put up the nomination but also is willing to put forth the effort to help us ensure the building and/or site is preserved for history's sake," he said.
More than a dozen buildings stood on the Dorchester Academy site at one time, but now the only building that remains is the boys dormitory, a brick Greek Revival structure built in 1934.
The Liberty County group that nominated the site is the Dorchester Improvement Association, whose members have provided care for the building over the decades. But its aging membership, coupled with limited resources, have made it impossible to make necessary impairs.
The financial burden of renovating the building, of which the roof is the major source of damage, will cost upwards of $100,000 just to stabilize the structure. The 2009 designees were awarded almost $50,000 in matching grant money.
"There are significant financial hurdles we and the Dorchester group will have to clear to fully restore the building," McDonald said. "But with a blend of grants and private donations, which will be spurned by its inclusion on these lists of most endangered places in Georgia and the nation, we can hopefully raise the funds to save the building and preserve its historical status."
Since 2006, the Georgia Trust has identified 50 threatened sites across the state with its annual Places in Peril list. The designation raises awareness and rallies resources to save the sites. This year's top 10 list includes:
-- 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
-- Capricorn Recording Studio in Macon
For more information on these sites, go to

Thursday, November 5, 2009

2010 Places in Peril Coverage - Paradise Gardens

Finster’s Paradise Gardens named to “Places in Peril” list

Chattanooga Times Free Press - Andy Johns - November 4, 2009

Howard Finster’s Paradise Gardens in Chattooga County, Ga., has been named to a preservation group’s “Places in Peril” list.

The Georgia Trust for Historic Preservation included the late folk artist’s 4-acre property on its fifth annual list, released today.

In a statement, the group says the list aims to raise awareness about Georgia’s significant historic, archaeological and cultural resources that are threatened by demolition, neglect, lack of maintenance, inappropriate development or insensitive public policy.

Finster’s gardens, packed with folk art items like a 20-foot statue made of bicycle frames and his famous paintings of Coca-Cola bottles, has been featured on “The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson” and in music videos and cover art for REM and other groups.

Other sites on the list include: Central State Hospital in Milledgeville; 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.

2010 Places in Peril Update - Capricorn Studios

Final chapter of the Capricorn building has not been written

It’s tragic when a dream dies, particularly one so steeped in Macon history. The former Capricorn studio buiding was set to be auctioned off Tuesday on the courthouse steps to satisfy a bank loan. Alan Justice had dreamed of renovating the building and forming a not-for-profit company that would have included a working recording studio, cafe and museum.

Capricorn studios sits on Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. and is the site where some of the greatest music of the 1960s and ’70s was recorded. The Allman Brothers of course, but Jimi Hendrix, Joni Mitchell, Lynyrd Skynyrd and the Atlanta Rhythm Section and many other artists recorded there.

This chapter in the building and studio’s history was not the first time a dream went unfulfilled. Gregory Jones owned the building for a while and had renovated the studio — quite an expensive proposition. He went into the venture out of his love for music, but a recording studio is a tough business, even when the walls witnessed great music being made.

It would be wonderful if the next owner has the same level of love for the building’s musical heritage as the last owners. It is being recognized today for its historical significance by the Georgia Trust for Historic Preservation. The building made the Trust’s “Places in Peril” list and could be eligible for enhanced services from the trust. Timing, though could make that difficult.

The studio building is in an area that doesn’t look like much now, but a redevelopment group has proposed a $29 million effort and the Capricorn studio building was to be the centerpiece. That can still happen, and we hope that it does. Duane Allman’s guitar riffs still echo from its walls.

— Charles E. Richardson, for the Editorial Board

2010 Places in Peril Coverage

Atlanta Journal Constitution Coverage

Morris Brown, Herndon Plaza on Places in Peril List

Preservationists fear for Morris Brown College and Herndon Plaza, headquarters of the Atlanta Life Insurance Company for six decades.

Both Atlanta sites were included on the Georgia Trust for Historic Preservation's 2010 Places in Peril list, released Wednesday. The fifth annual list is designed to raise awareness about 10 significant historic, archaeological and cultural resources across the state that the trust believes are imperiled by demolition, neglect, lack of maintenance, inappropriate development or "insensitive" public policy.

After an embezzlement scandal, Morris Brown, whose first building opened in 1882 to educate freed slaves, lost its accreditation in 2002 and had trouble paying its water bill and other operating expenses.

Trust president and CEO Mark C. McDonald said the preservation organization is specifically concerned with at least four historic buildings that are boarded up, not more contemporary structures still in use for the 100 to 150 students on campus.

School spokeswoman Bunnie Jackson Ransom said, "That’s Morris Brown's concern also. The Georgia Trust shares that concern with the Morris Brown board, faculty and the president. ... The alumni, the AME church and the faculty have done a superb job of keeping the doors open. You have to pick your priorities."

Trust leader McDonald said he hoped Morris Brown's inclusion "will create substantial dialogue about finding a new purpose for those historic buildings. There are a multitude of possible uses. They could be used for the expansion of other [Atlanta University Center] schools. The civil rights museum, instead of going into a new building, could go there. We should consider everything. Those buildings played an important role in the rise of the African-American middle class, not just in Atlanta but America. It seems appropriate to me to have a civil rights-related role there."

Herndon Plaza, built as an Auburn Avenue residence in the 1890s, became Atlanta Life Insurance's headquarters around 1920. In 1936, an annex was added, also in the Neoclassical style of the original building. Atlanta Life, which moved into a new headquarters in 1980, sold Herndon Plaza, vacant for many years, to the Historic District Development Corporation in 1997. Pending funding, HDDC has plans to renovate it.

A third metro property listed is the Canton Grammar School, built in 1914 and one of the few remaining Neoclassical Revival-style schools in Georgia. The Cherokee CountyBoard of Education closed the building last year, and the trust says there has been talk of razing it. "That's really why it's on the list," McDonald said. "It represents cases where demolition is so senseless when there are viable reuses for the building."

Also listed are the Capricorn Recording Studio in Macon and Paradise Gardens, the late Howard Finster's folk art environment in Summerville. Finster built his creation over a former swamp from "often-fragile materials" that have suffered damage from the elements. Much of Paradise Garden's art was sold off around the time of Finster's 2001 death, but some considered the overallenvironment his greatest work.

"It's a unique challenge," McDonald said. "We’re going to have to help leadership there come up with conservation approaches and help them find the money. A possible solution is for it to be promoted as a tourism site. Finster is gone, but it’s still there and an absolutely unique place to visit."

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

2010 Places in Peril - 10 Places That Need Your Help!!!

Historic schools. Courthouses. Old movie theaters. Many we pass by so often we no longer notice the swooping ornate marble, the 100-year-old brickwork, the grand courthouse clock. But these places and more face threats everyday–perhaps more so because we’ve grown so used to seeing them.

That’s why The Georgia Trust is bringing attention to 10 Places in Peril across the state and providing ways you can help in your community. Each site represents hundreds of similar sites throughout our state that are just as endangered and in need of community help as the 10 we have identified. So take a look at this year’s list, learn more about the program, and find out how you can help protect these properties and others in your community.
In 2009, each Place in Peril received direct assistance as part of The Georgia Trust’s new Partners in the Field program, a partnership with the National Trust for Historic Preservation. Our new field services representative, Jordan Poole, visited each designee and worked with the local property owners and community leaders to help form a preservation strategy.

As part of the new program, the 2009 Places in Peril received nearly $50,000 in grant money.
The Georgia Trust’s Places in Peril program seeks to identify significant historic, archaeological and cultural properties that are threatened by demolition, deterioration or insensitive public policy or development, and have a demonstrable level of community interest, commitment and support. The 10 Places in Peril are selected for listing based on several criteria. Sites must be listed or eligible for listing in the National Register of Historic Places or the Georgia Register of Historic Places. Sites must be subject to a serious threat to their existence or historical, architectural and/or archaeological integrity. There must be a demonstrable level of community commitment and support for the preservation of listed sites.

A Tree Grows with Atlanta

Pictured above: The Southern Red Oak in front of Rhodes Hall.

When Rhodes Hall was completed in 1904, the Southern Red Oak which stands before the home's tower was a part of the original landscaping. We estimate the tree was approximately twenty years old by then, and in its lifetime it would survive the great Atlanta fire of 1917. It would see the Varsity open in 1928, and continue to grow as Margaret Mitchell worked at her typewriter in her small apartment down the street, eventually publishing her novel Gone with the Wind in 1936.

In 1958, the tree had grown more than 9 feet, and the Temple of the Hebrew Benevolent Congregation, also on Peachtree, was bombed- the Oak stood as witness. The tree was there for Dr. Martin Luther King's leadership, and stood proud when he won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964. It looked on as Ted Turner launched of TBS in 1975. In 1996, the Olympics came to Atlanta, and the old Oak provided shade for the Turkish delegation who were headquartered in Rhodes Hall.

Pictured above: The sonogram of the Red Oak, provided by
Arbormedics. Blue indicates hollow space.

The Oak is round about 125 years old, and it is with great regret that we at the Trust announce that it is dying. A recent sonogram, conducted by Arbormedics shown above, indicates that the tree has been hollowed by a fungal infection, and has suffered extensive heart rot. The Southern Red Oak, which has served as a measure of Atlanta's history and growth, must be removed to insure that it will not collapse and damage Rhodes Hall or other properties nearby.

While it may seem ridiculous to some to write a such a eulogy, preservationists and environmentalists alike acknowledge the importance, ecological and historic, of old trees.

As we at the Trust prepare for the tree's removal, we bid goodbye to a dear friend and important part of our history. Stay tuned as we plant new roots- a new tree to take the old Oak's place and serve as witness to future historic events at Rhodes Hall and in Atlanta.

Monday, November 2, 2009

2009 Places in Peril Update: Bibb Mill, Columbus, GA

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Columbus’ Bibb Mill still burns today — on YouTube, where the quarter-mile-long brick behemoth that burned one year ago yet blazes away in videos posted by people who caught the fire on cell phones or video cameras.

Columbus firefighters got the first alarm after midnight on Oct. 30, 2008, and while racing up Second Avenue from Station No. 1 at 10th Street saw the orange glow lighting up the sky.

The fire roared through the night, sending fat embers flying all over town. The mill’s pine wood floors, long treated with oil, fueled the flames. All firefighters could do was back off and contain the blaze, and keep nearby homes from igniting.

By daybreak, 11 fire units and 60-65 firefighters had been sent to the scene. Crowds of spectators gathered, some bringing food and beer.

Recycling bricks

Today the cleanup continues, with maybe a month or six weeks left to go, said Bill Reaves of Reaves Wrecking, which is doing the work.

The bricks that formed the mill’s imposing walls are not going to waste, he said. They’re being laid into new walls in new buildings.

“We shipped 100,000 to a really nice house down in Orlando in the last two weeks,” Reaves said. “They go mostly in higher-end residential uses, nicer houses.”


“It’s just the authentic look of used brick,” he said. “It’s like an antique: You can buy a reproduction or you can buy the real thing.”

A century of life

The beginning of “The Bibb,” as locals called it, dates back to 1899, when the North Highlands Dam was built. The dam’s water pressure in 1900 powered a rope-drive system in the Bibb, which expanded in 1916, and again in 1920. The mill’s 1916 addition extended the main building from 300 feet to 500 feet. Its 1920 expansion took it to 1,010 feet, from the river to First Avenue at 38th Street. This central mill building was six stories tall and 650,000 square feet.

In the 1940s, the mill had about 3,000 workers. On its last day of operation, March 20, 1998, only 200 were left.

Planning the future

Today the fire’s cause remains undetermined, said Chief Jeff Meyer, who heads the Columbus Department of Fire and Emergency Medical Services. “As far as anyone can remember, that was the largest structure fire we’ve had in Columbus,” he said.

Owner Brent Buck and architect Will Barnes still are working on plans for what next happens to the property.

“There is a master plan currently being developed,” Barnes said. A $10,000 grant from the Georgia Trust for Historic Preservation has helped pay for a conceptual plan focusing on questions such as, “What will we do with the footprint of the historic mill, and how will we salvage the 1920s façade — how does that fall into the overall plan?” he said.

That façade at 38th Street still stands. How much of the remaining ruins will be preserved is yet to be determined, but the footprint of the building will be marked for future generations to see, Barnes said.

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