The Georgia Trust for Historic Preservation released its 2024 list of 10 Places in Peril in the state.
Sites on the list include: Atlanta Constitution Building in Atlanta (Fulton County); Broad Avenue Elementary in Albany (Dougherty County); Cedar Grove in Martinez (Columbia County); Church of the Good Shepherd in Thomasville (Thomas County); Grace Baptist Church in Darien (McIntosh County); Hogg Hummock on Sapelo Island (McIntosh County); Old First Baptist Church in Augusta (Richmond County); Pine Log Mountain (Bartow County); Piney Grove Cemetery in Atlanta (Fulton County); and Sugar Valley Consolidated School in Sugar Valley (Gordon County).
“This is the Trust’s nineteenth annual Places in Peril list,” said W. Wright Mitchell, president and CEO of the Trust. “We hope the list will continue to bring preservation solutions to Georgia’s imperiled historic resources by highlighting ten representative sites.”
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 reuse, reinvest and revitalize historic properties that are in peril.
Sites on previous years’ lists include the Eleanor Roosevelt School in Warm Springs, the country’s last constructed Rosenwald School, which this year received a $700K restoration grant from the National Park Service; Cherry Grove Schoolhouse in Washington, a rare surviving example of an early 20th century rural African American school building in Georgia, was completely restored and received the Trust’s highest preservation award this year; the Adam-Strain Building in Darien, a rare example of historic tabby construction that was slated for demolition in 2008, is undergoing its second phase of restoration; the Kit Jones, a nearly 100-year-old ship, has been restored and will become the new centerpiece for a park in Darien; and the Milton Historical Society and Chadwick family owners have cleared out the interior of the McConnell-Chadwick House, one of the earliest structures in Cherokee County, with plans to install a new metal roof to stabilize the building—the City of Milton has approved a Letter of Intent to accept a donation of the property to preserve it.
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.” The Trust offers a variety of educational programs for adults and children, provides technical assistance to property owners and historic communities, advocates for funding, tax incentives and other laws aiding preservation efforts, and manages two house museums in Atlanta (Rhodes Hall) and Macon (Hay House).
Summary Information on each Places in Peril Site
Atlanta Constitution Building, Atlanta (Fulton County)
Constructed in 1947, the Atlanta Constitution Building is a rare Georgia example of Art Moderne architecture that was home to the Atlanta Constitution newspaper during Ralph McGill’s term as editor. When the Atlanta Journal and Constitution consolidated and moved out of the building in 1955. It has been vacant since 1972.
The building has withstood previous proposals for demolition, while recent efforts toward redevelopment have yet to materialize.
Broad Avenue Elementary, Albany (Dougherty County)
Broad Avenue Elementary was built in the 1930s. Dougherty County Schools obtained ownership of the building in 1963, and the school served the community until the property was sold in 2005.
A contributing structure in the local historic district, Broad Avenue Elementary is under threat of condemnation and demolition due to its deteriorated condition. A local non-profit, SOWEGA Rising, took ownership of the building in 2019 and continues to work toward the goal of rehabilitating the property as a center that will provide opportunities for students and entrepreneurs in the region.
Cedar Grove, Martinez (Columbia County)
Named after the cedar trees planted in the front of the home, Cedar Grove was built in 1851 and has been owned by several prominent residents of Columbia County. In 1964, Our Savior Episcopal Church bought the property, converting part of the house into a sanctuary and hosting community meetings and events. From 1970 to 1980, the house functioned as Cedar Grove Kindergarten which served as the first integrated kindergarten program in Columbia County.
Over the decades, the congregation has made use of the property as it best fits the needs of its mission. The recent discovery of mold, along with the ongoing costs of maintenance, threaten the continued use of the building.
Church of the Good Shepherd, Thomasville (Thomas County)
Constructed in 1894, the Church of the Good Shepherd in Thomasville is an example of an enduring commitment to African American religious expression, education and social enrichment in the South. The site includes both a classroom and library that functioned from 1896 to 1964 and was also the site of Thomasville’s first African American Boy Scout troop. Today, the Church provides vital social services by maintaining a food pantry, soup kitchen and community garden.
Neighborhood disinvestment and demographic shifts have left the Church of the Good Shepherd without its large congregation to support the upkeep of the church and its valued social services. Major repairs on the site have been deferred, and the historic buildings have begun to deteriorate, leaving all three buildings in peril.
Grace Baptist Church, Darien (McIntosh County)
Grace Baptist Church is located on Vernon Square, one of the four original squares in Darien, laid out according to the Oglethorpe plan. During Reconstruction, the church’s location on Adams Street was home to African American professionals, and many formerly enslaved, first-time homeowners. Grace Baptist Church was a significant institution within the community in which several successful African American leaders were associated.
The congregation disbanded in the 1990s, and the building fell into disrepair. In April 2022, an oak tree fell on the building, heavily damaging the roof and structure. In May 2023, the City of Darien issued a citation that may lead to demolition of the property.
Hogg Hummock, Sapelo Island (McIntosh County)
Listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1996, the Hogg Hummock community on Sapelo Island faces a renewed threat to its historically significant design and cultural heritage. Home to one of the last remaining Gullah Geechee communities in the United States, Hogg Hummock was established by direct descendants of West Africans who were enslaved on the plantations of coastal Georgia. Following the Civil War, these formerly enslaved peoples settled on Sapelo Island and purchased over 400 acres of land. As with other Gullah Geechee communities, Hogg Hummock developed a distinct, interconnected culture of subsistence and cooperative living, due in part to the relative isolation from communities on the mainland.
Now, like many areas in the Gullah Geechee corridor, Hogg Hummock faces persistent pressures that threaten the historic fabric of their community. Recent rezoning will allow homes to be constructed that double the size of the current limits. This change in policy was enacted with limited public input and can contribute to land value increases that could further force the removal of the indigenous population.
Old First Baptist Church, Augusta (Richmond County)
Designed by Willis Denny and constructed in 1902, the historic First Baptist Church building in downtown Augusta is situated on land with a rich religious history. On the site, the Baptist Praying Society was established in 1817 and the Southern Baptist Convention was founded in 1845. Individually listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1972, the building is a significant example of Beaux Arts architecture.
The property, now privately owned, is in a state of disrepair, with the historic sanctuary space in particular peril. Local advocates continue to work with the owner to identify viable reuse opportunities, development partners and financial incentives that can be used to bring the space back to its former glory.
Pine Log Mountain (Bartow County)
Pine Log Mountain, a privately owned wilderness area in Bartow County, is the site of historic resources representing three significant phases of Georgia’s history: a Woodlands Era rock wall built by indigenous peoples; four 1840s-era stone iron furnaces; and the remains of the Sugar Hill Convict Labor Camp, where events that took place served as a catalyst for the Georgia Legislature ending its convict lease system in 1909.
Today the historic sites that rest on Pine Log Mountain are threatened by demolition. The private property is up for sale following the end of a lease to the Department of Natural Resources. Bartow County plans to rezone much of the property from agricultural to low-density housing, high-density housing and industrial mining. Many of the historic resources have not been surveyed, and there is no preservation plan currently in place to protect these historic sites.
Piney Grove Cemetery, Atlanta (Fulton County)
Piney Grove Cemetery is a historic African American burial ground in the Buckhead neighborhood of Atlanta. The cemetery’s founding dates to the 1800s and has over 300 burials, including numerous unmarked burials. Piney Grove Cemetery is one of the last vestiges of several African American communities that once thrived in the area.
The land was sold to a commercial developer with conditions for access and maintenance as part of zoning conditions. Ultimately, a condominium complex was built adjacent to the cemetery.
Despite zoning conditions and state law, the condominium has failed to maintain proper access and upkeep.
Sugar Valley Consolidated School, Sugar Valley (Gordon County)
Built in 1927 by architect-builder W. Laurens Hillhouse, the Sugar Valley Consolidated School was established as a public school by an act of the Georgia Legislature to eliminate independent school systems. It operated for almost 50 years before closing its doors in 1974. Now owned by Gordon County, the building has most recently operated as a community center, voting precinct and events space.
Deemed unsafe by the County, the Board of Commissioners has announced a plan to demolish the school to construct a fire station. Despite an active alumni association’s commitment and earmarked SPLOST funds for repairs, efforts appear to be redirected to other county projects.
SOURCE The Georgia Trust for Historic Preservation