Georgia musician T. Hardy Morris lends hand to help save historic sites


ExploreTraveler’s Rest State Historic Site, Toccoa

Built in 1815 as an inn for travelers on the historic Unicoi Turnpike and later used as the headquarters of a 14,400-acre plantation, Traveler’s Rest has been owned by the state since 1955. Limited use and decreased tourism have resulted in decreased revenue and deferred maintenance.

ExploreCentral State Hospital, Milledgeville

Built in 1842, Central State Hospital (CSH) was Georgia’s first psychiatric hospital, chartered by the Legislature in 1837 with the intent of providing Georgians with mental illness or developmental disabilities with a safe and humane environment. At its peak, the facility had 13,000 patients and its own nursing school. It has been said that the hospital’s first superintendent, Dr. Thomas A. Green, not only persuaded Gen. William T. Sherman not to burn the hospital as he passed through Milledgeville, but also persuaded him to give some of his troops’ rations to the patients. Currently, there is an effort to restore the CSH’s cemeteries. Some of the buildings have been vacant for years and are suffering from neglect.

ExploreRitz Theatre, Thomaston

Located on the courthouse square in Thomaston, the Ritz Theatre was built during the height of the city’s economic growth. The Ritz Theatre has served Thomaston and surrounding towns as a home for the arts as well as an anchor on the downtown square. The Ritz Theatre continues to show first-run movies and serves more than 24,000 patrons annually. A leak in the front parapet wall has contributed to water penetrating the art deco facade. This water damage is causing tiles to deteriorate, posing a threat to the structure and to pedestrians on the sidewalk below.

* Source: Georgia Trust for Historic Preservation


Candler Park Golf Course, Atlanta

Sweet Auburn Commercial District, Atlanta

Dobbins Mining Landscape, Bartow County

Stilesboro Academy, Bartow County

Cave Spring Log Cabin, Floyd County

Traveler’s Rest State Historic Site, Stephens County

Lexington Presbyterian Church, Oglethorpe County

Tift Warehouse, Albany

Monticello Commercial Building, Jasper County

Hancock County Courthouse, Hancock County

The extras in T. Hardy Morris’ “Audition Tapes” videos won’t get a paycheck.

They may, however, get a new lease on life.

Morris, frontman for Dead Confederate, an Athens-based rock band, is set to release his first solo project, "Audition Tapes," on Dangerbird Records later this month. The accompanying videos were shot at several locations on the Georgia Trust for Historic Preservation's Places in Peril lists.

“We were kind of looking for a way to do something cool for the trust and to marry music with this other interest I have,” said Morris, who nurtures a longtime fascination with history and architecture instilled in him by his father. The musician is a member of the trust.

Jason Thrasher, an Athens-based photographer and filmmaker, shot the videos, most of which are done in black and white. The sites — 10 in all from recent yearly Places in Peril lists — were selected based on proximity and other factors. The Rock House, for example, is in McDuffie County, where Morris’ ancestors are from going back to the early 1800s.

Officials with the trust welcome the exposure to their preservation work that the videos will bring.

“This introduces us to a whole new audience — people who love music and see architecture through the lens of art,” said Mark C. McDonald, president and CEO. “We’re used to talking to people who love architecture and history.”

All of the sites for the videos were chosen particularly for their look and feel.

“Lucky,” for instance, was shot live at the old Traveler’s Rest State Historic Site in Toccoa.

The structure was built around 1815 by James R. Wyly as an inn for travelers along a main corridor in the area, according to the trust and the Georgia Department of Natural Resources. He operated the inn until 1833, when he sold it to his neighbor Devereaux Jarrett, the “richest man in the Tugaloo Valley.” Jarrett continued to operate the inn, but doubled its size to make it the homeplace of his 14,400-acre plantation along the Tugaloo River.

Later, the state bought the remaining acres for $8,000 in 1955. It designated a National Historic Landmark in 1964. Limited use and decreased tourism have resulted in decreased revenue and deferred maintenance.

Other sites included the Ritz Theatre in Thomaston and Central State Hospital in Milledgeville.

Morris said the project enabled him to visit places that he likely would never have seen. But he also hopes it will raise awareness about the importance of preserving Georgia’s history, especially among younger generations.

The trust has compiled the list since 2006. Some sites on the list have been saved, such as the Chattahoochee Park Pavilion, built at the turn of the 20th century, in Gainesville. Morris performed “OK Corral” at the pavilion, which was on the 2012 list of Places in Peril. It was part of an amusement park built on the banks of what was then Lake Warner.

Others still languish or are in the process of being restored. And some have been lost.

The Georgia Trust’s Places in Peril program identifies and preserves historic sites threatened by demolition, neglect, lack of maintenance, inappropriate development or insensitive public policy.

Properties 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; facing a serious threat to their existence or historical and architectural integrity; and there must be a level of community commitment and support for its preservation.

McDonald generally praised efforts throughout the state to preserve Georgia’s history, though he concedes Atlanta is a different story.

“Atlanta is the city where you come to make money and where business opportunities are prized above everything else,” he said. “Part of the culture of Atlanta is to rebuild.”