Places in Peril lists historic Georgia landmarks under threat of destruction

Notable sites, structures, communities facing neglect and demolition.
The Old First Baptist Church in Augusta is among the historic sites named in the Places in the Peril list published by the Georgia Trust for Historic Preservation. Photos: the Georgia Trust

Credit: Georgia Trust

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The Old First Baptist Church in Augusta is among the historic sites named in the Places in the Peril list published by the Georgia Trust for Historic Preservation. Photos: the Georgia Trust

Credit: Georgia Trust

Credit: Georgia Trust

A Sapelo Island community, a noble downtown office building, an Augusta church: All are among the Georgia structures and locales that face threats from time, neglect and commerce.

They are part of the 2024 Places in Peril list, published annually by the Georgia Trust for Historic Preservation. The list is created to draw attention to parts of the state’s heritage in danger of disappearing. It focuses on 10 significant sites of Georgia history, though there are many more in need of care.

This is the 19th such accounting and is by no means a comprehensive guide to all the threatened structures in Georgia. “You could fill the list just with places in Atlanta,” said W. Wright Mitchell, president and CEO of the trust.

Instead the list is intended to highlight representative sites to kickstart preservation efforts.

Drawing attention to these landmarks has led to some success stories. Mitchell said a favorite “win” was the Eleanor Roosevelt School in Warm Springs, the last-constructed of the Rosenwald Schools, which received a $700,000 grant from the National Park Service. Another was the Kit Jones, a century-old ship, that was restored and will become the new centerpiece for a park in Darien.

There have also been losses. Glenridge Hall in Sandy Springs, built in 1929 on 400 acres of farm land, was a remarkable private residence. Restored by the family, it was on the National Register of Historic Places and the Places in Peril list, but eventually was sold to a developer, who demolished it and built townhomes.

Here are the Top 10 threatened places for 2024:

Credit: Georgia Trust

Credit: Georgia Trust

Atlanta Constitution building, downtown Atlanta

Constructed in 1947, this downtown landmark is an example of Art Moderne architecture, and was home to the Atlanta Constitution newspaper for only a few years, from 1952 until 1955. Georgia Power moved into the building that year, and stayed until 1972.

Threats of demolition and promises of revitalization have come and gone, but the building continues to deteriorate. “It is in dire condition,” said Mitchell.

Broad Avenue Elementary, Albany

Part of a historic district in Albany, this 1930s school house was adopted by a local nonprofit in 2019. The Trust writes that “significant fundraising will be required to save the structure.”

Cedar Grove, Martinez

An Italianate residence built in 1851, the house was purchased by Our Savior Episcopal Church in 1964. For 10 years the structure served as the Cedar Grove Kindergarten, which was the first integrated program in Columbia County. The ability of the church to provide maintenance has diminished over the years.

Credit: Georgia Trust

Credit: Georgia Trust

Church of the Good Shepherd, Thomasville

This 1894 African American church includes a classroom and library and once housed Thomasville’s first African American Boy Scout troop. A dwindling congregation has deferred maintenance and all three buildings on the site are in danger of collapse.

Grace Baptist Church, Darien

Located on Vernon Square in Darien, Grace Baptist Church was part of a thriving community of Black professionals during Reconstruction. A founding trustee, W.H. Rogers, was elected as a state legislator from 1902-1907.

After the congregations disbanded, the church languished. Last year a falling oak tree damaged the roof, and the city of Darien may have the structure demolished. Former members are looking for a way to save it.

Credit: Georgia Trust

Credit: Georgia Trust

Hogg Hummock, Sapelo Island

Hogg Hummock, also known as Hog Hammock, is one of the last Gullah Geechee communities in the U.S., composed of formerly enslaved West Africans who settled Sapelo Island and purchased 400 acres of land.

The distinct traditions of the group are threatened by increasing property values, the desire of mainlanders for second homes on the island, and a recent zoning change. New zoning allows larger houses to be built on the island (up from 1,400 square feet to 3,000 square feet) which some residents say will push taxes up and drive original settlers out.

Old First Baptist Church, Augusta

Constructed in 1902, this church is the site of the founding of the Southern Baptist Convention and a charming example of Beaux Arts architecture.

Now privately owned, the church needs repair. Local advocates seek funding and some alternative use.

Pine Log Mountain, Bartow County

A privately held 14,000-acre wilderness area in Bartow County, Pine Log Mountain is up for sale. Contained within the parcel is a wildlife management area, remnants of Woodlands Era culture, 1840s stone furnaces for smelting iron, and the remains of the Sugar Creek Convict Labor Camp.

There are plans to rezone the property for low-density and 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,” writes the Trust.

Credit: Georgia Trust

Credit: Georgia Trust

Piney Grove Cemetery, Buckhead

A historic African American graveyard just south of Lenox Square, Piney Grove Cemetery was attached to the Piney Grove Missionary Baptist Church, which dates from the 1800s.

The church building collapsed in a storm in the 1990s and was demolished. Condominiums were constructed on nearby property, with an agreement to maintain the cemetery property.

Instead, according to the Trust, “the property has become overgrown and inaccessible with damage to headstones from falling trees, vegetation and trash.”

Credit: Georgia Trust

Credit: Georgia Trust

Sugar Valley Consolidated School, Gordon County

In Gordon County, northwest of Calhoun, is the Sugar Valley Consolidated School, designed by architect W. Laurens Hillhouse, and built in 1927 of local stone called Knox chert.

The school closed its doors in 1974 and was recently deemed unsafe by the county, which has plans to demolish the school to build a fire station.

Mitchell said the Trust can use a Revolving Fund to acquire endangered properties, and then locate buyers interested in community revitalization. While some long-suffering properties, such as the Atlanta Constitution building, seem like hopeless cases, the Places in Peril list has proven an effective method of stimulating preservation, said Mitchell.

“We have an 85% success rate,” he said.

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