African American sites top Georgia’s 10 ‘Places in Peril’

Mark McDonald, the trust’s president, said that the list is meant to highlight sites around the state that have historic significance, face a real threat, or are representative of broader preservation issues

Sites from African American history, a suburban Atlanta neighborhood and a rural fairground are among the 10 Places in Peril named this year by the Georgia Trust For Historic Preservation.

Mark McDonald, the trust’s president and CEO, said Wednesday that the list is meant to highlight sites around the state that have historic significance, face a real threat, or are representative of broader preservation issues.

Among the sites are:

— Ansley Park, a suburban neighborhood in Atlanta where many homes have demolished and replaced with more modern structures. Although Ansley Park is on the National Register of Historic Places, structures aren’t protected from demolition by local ordinance. The trust says Ansley Park is “nearing a point of no return” and could be removed from the national register.

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The Atlanta skyline sits beyond Turner Field before the start of the New York Mets versus Atlanta Braves during the Braves home season opening game at Turner Field April 6, 2007 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)

— Chattahoochee Brick Company in Atlanta, a former factory that used convict labor under harsh conditions to make bricks for much of its existence. Today, the historic structures have been demolished, but the trust suggests the site should be preserved to honor those who worked there and highlight its history.

— Gay Fairgrounds in the Meriwether County town of Gay. The grounds host a twice-yearly fair at a complex that includes 11 historic buildings including a a former cotton gin and peach packing house. The trust says that the buildings are neglected because they are only used twice a year and warns they aren’t protected by local ordinance.

— Georgia B. Williams Nursing Home in Camilla, a maternity home for African American mothers during segregation. Run by Beatrice Borders, the trust says 6,000 mothers delivered babies there. The house has been vacant since 2004 and is now uninhabitable, making it more likely it will be demolished.

— Good Shepherd Episcopal School near Brunswick, part of a historic African American community. The school and adjoining church were founded by Anna Ellison Butler Alexander, who was named the first African American deaconess in the Episcopal Church in 1907. In 1998, Alexander was named a saint of Georgia by the Episcopal Diocese of Georgia. The school has suffered weather damage and the church lacks money to care for it.

— Imperial Hotel in Thomasville, which was built in 1949 and operated until 1969 as the town’s only hotel aimed at Black travelers. The building was later used as offices, but has been vacant since 2001. It has recently been stabilized but still lacks a long-term use.

A view of the billboard truck at Clark Atlanta University for #ALLINFORVOTING Get Out The Vote Billboard Campaign on October 31, 2020 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Marcus Ingram/Getty Images for ALL IN: The Fight for Democracy )

— Red Hill Prison Cemetery in Milledgeville, which hosts 600 graves of people who died while imprisoned at the Old State Prison Farm. License plates made by prisoners marked graves by numbers. The site has been unattended since 1937 and is overgrown. The license plate markers are rusting, and some graves appear to be unmarked.

— Red Oak Creek Covered Bridge in Woodbury. The Meriwether County bridge was built in the 1840s by Horace King or his son. King, born a slave in South Carolina, built dozens of bridges in Georgia, Alabama and Mississippi, but the Red Oak Creek bridge is the only one connected to him that is still carrying traffic. A recent accident damaged several structural braces inside the bridge.

— Thicket Ruins in Darien. which include the tabby ruins of a sugar mill and rum distillery. The site also includes ruins of four former slave quarters. After being hit by a hurricane in 1824, operations ceased at the mill and the land was converted to a cotton plantation. The ruins are eroding into a tidal creek. The walls of the mill have collapsed, and one building has been completely lost.

— West Broad Street School in Athens, with three structures built to educate African Americans during segregation. The Clarke County school district proposed demolishing the buildings to build a new preschool. The district has agreed to reconsider its plans and look at reusing the existing buildings.

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