Great pasts, uncertain futures: Trust releases annual Places in Peril

An old pharmacy, an abandoned hospital, a road that wound through 13 Georgia counties — these sites and seven more are on this year’s list of Places in Peril.

The Georgia Trust for Historic Preservation released its 10th annual list of imperiled places this week. Each site, according to the nonprofit organization, is in danger of wrecking balls, neglect or development.

Three sites are in the metro area. One, East Point’s Historic Civic Block, encompasses a city block and includes the East Point City Hall. Mandeville Homestead in Carrollton and Glenridge Hall in Sandy Springs round out the trio.

Other sites are scattered across the state: Ware’s Folly in Augusta (Richmond County); the Dart House in Brunswick (Glynn County); Haistens Hospital in Griffin (Spalding County); Portal Drugstore in Portal (Bullock County); Sandersville School in Sandersville (Washington County); Hancock County Courthouse in Sparta (Hancock County); and the Federal Road/Lower Creek Trading Path, an old highway that cut an east-west route across the state.

Each site needs to be saved, said Mark C. McDonald, the trust’s president and CEO.

“As I like to tell the staff, this is our to-do list,” he said. “These are the properties we’d like to preserve in 2015.”

The annual lists debuted in 2006. The first included Andalusia, the Milledgeville home of renowned author Flannery O’Connor, and the Auburn/Edgewood Avenue Commercial District in Atlanta. In 2007, the compendium included Atlanta’s Virginia-Highland neighborhood. Over the years, the lists have featured everything from churches to courthouses, from a prison camp in Blackshear to a railroad depot in Tunnel Hill.

The trust does not fund restoration of the sites it showcases. Instead, it compiles annual lists in the hope that others — private individuals, corporations, philanthropic groups — might save parcels of the past. It has enjoyed some success.

For example, Andalusia has received several grants and donations. The Auburn/Edgewood corridor, now overseen by a development corporation, has enjoyed some economic revival, and is the site of a new enterprise, the Atlanta Streetcar.

There have been disappointments, too. The Bibb Mill in downtown Columbus caught fire after appearing in the 2009 inventory. “That,” McDonald said, “was a tragedy.”

Sites on this year’s list also face uncertain futures, he said. Glenridge Hall, McDonald noted, is in immaculate condition, but is in danger because it’s built on a tract that’s for sale.

The Federal Road/Lower Creek Trading Path is another site that could vanish. It once stretched from Augusta to south of Columbus, crossing 13 counties. It originally linked Native American Creeks, then evolved to serve the others. In some places the road has vanished; in others, it’s passed into private hands.

McDonald would like to get brochures printed highlighting the road’s route and its history. “It was of huge significance,” he said. “It’s a sort of historical feature that you can ride by and not know what it is.”

And, in Portal, city officials hope something can be done to save the now-closed Portal Drugstore. It once was part of a three-building cluster that provided a glimpse of an earlier Georgia. The pharmacy shared street space with a doctor’s office and general goods store. Now, only the drugstore — still intact, but worn by the passage of decades — remains.

“It’s certainly in peril,” said Larry Motes, mayor of Portal, 200 miles southeast of Atlanta. He wants it restored. “The town would be better off with it like that.”

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