NGE >> History and Archaeology >> Historians/Historical Organizations >> Historical Organizations (see also Historic Preservation) >> Community Preservation
The story of historic preservation in Georgia, as in the nation, is one of the rebirth of neighborhoods and downtowns.
History of Neighborhood and Downtown Preservation
Although very early preservation interest tended to concentrate on individual landmarks associated with famous people, citizens nationwide soon became concerned about more than the architectural characteristics of an individual historic building. The National Register of Historic Places, created by NHPA, included a category of historic property called "historic district," and the criteria that were developed enabled these places to be identified and evaluated. This process fostered an interest in environmental planning that led to an interest in older neighborhoods and downtown areas.
The Historic Savannah Foundation was founded after the loss of a major community landmark and threats to another in the mid-1950s. But the organization soon was engaged in the business of saving the neighborhoods that make up the Savannah historic district. Other Georgia cities, too, began to work in their downtown districts, which included older residential neighborhoods and commercial streets.
The earliest work affected neighborhoods that had originally been developed as what today would be called "upscale" places, where the residents were largely upper middle class. However, as the historic preservation movement broadened to include historic places associated with increasingly diverse populations, a greater variety of neighborhoods was included. Among the earliest efforts was Savannah's oldest still-intact African American neighborhood, the Beach Institute area. A neighborhood organization was formed in the 1980s to survey its historic places and to save the King Tisdell Cottage by moving it from an urban renewal neighborhood, where other historic buildings were being demolished, to the Beach Institute area. A major community landmark, the Beach Institute Building of 1867, which gave the neighborhood its name, was rehabilitated into a community center. The Victorian district adjacent to the original landmark historic district became the focus of an innovative housing program for the largely African American population of this neighborhood, and the city has continued to expand housing programs into a number of historic neighborhoods.
Macon has been a national leader in affordable housing rehabilitation from its first efforts in Pleasant Hill, one of the state's largest African American historic districts.
In Athens's Hancock corridor and Thomasville's Stevens Street historic district, local preservation organizations, stimulated by a national program called Christmas in April, have begun volunteer clean-up/fix-up weekends to help homeowners who may not have adequate financial or organizational resources for needed home repairs and maintenance. Significant to many of these efforts are the partnerships with other housing and public programs as well as many local businesses and student organizations, which result in continuing action.
Despite its image of modern high-rise buildings and sprawling suburbs, Atlanta has supported one of the state's strongest neighborhood movements. Beginning in the early 1970s, Inman Park, Druid Hills, and Ansley Park
Since many older neighborhoods were often mixed-use areas with interspersed or adjacent commercial buildings, preservation organizations and local governments sought programs and investors who would keep these older commercial areas viable.
The earliest interest in historic districts grew from appreciation of their visual qualities— interesting and significant historic architecture set among established trees and mature vegetation and arranged along shady, pedestrian-friendly streets in a rhythmic progression of structures and spaces. Often this continuity of building and setting is punctuated by significant historic landmark structures, such as churches, schools, and public buildings. As the movement to preserve these places has progressed through the late twentieth century into the present, there has been greater recognition of the economic and social value of their preservation. Historic preservation has become more environmentally oriented and an important part of building successful communities.
The 1989 statewide historic preservation conference, jointly sponsored by the Historic Preservation Division, the Georgia Department of Natural Resources, and the Georgia Trust for Historic Preservation, chose as its theme "Successful Communities." Conference sessions provided not only how-to information but also speakers of national note who brought new analyses and recognition of the role of historic preservation in building successful communities.
As with residential neighborhoods, downtowns are benefiting from new partnerships. For example, in Athens a new alliance of downtown stakeholders began meeting
The Historic Preservation Process
In Georgia's communities success has seldom come from a single development but rather has grown from a series of projects and programs over a number of years.
In all of Georgia's larger cities, historic districts have been recognized in downtown areas and surrounding neighborhoods, beginning with Savannah in the 1950s. Local organizations assisted by the state historic preservation office (Historic Preservation Division) and encouraged by the statewide preservation organization (Georgia Trust for Historic Preservation) established the value and significance of their historic resources through surveys, National Register listings, and local designations. Since 1980, local governments have been authorized by the state to designate historic properties by ordinance and establish historic preservation commissions to protect them (Georgia Historic Preservation Act).
As of 2001 Georgia had approximately 100 such commissions. State law also requires that all local comprehensive plans include a historic preservation component. Once they are recognized through planning and designation,
Historic Preservation and Community
Successful communities, research has shown, convey a sense of pride and a vision of quality that are often based on the natural and historic resources that make them distinct places. Preserving a strong "sense of place" becomes the basis for an economically viable community through the preservation and reuse of local historic buildings, contextual in-fill buildings, pedestrian-oriented development, and greenspace in the town's central business district and residential areas. Communities where historic preservation has become an integral part of the community development process can be found throughout Georgia.
Elizabeth A. Lyon, "Historic Preservation and Successful Communities," Historic Preservation Forum 7, no. 5 (September/October 1993): 44-48.
Elizabeth A. Lyon, guest editor, "Historic Preservation in Georgia on the Thirtieth Anniversary of the State Historic Preservation Office, 1969-1999," Georgia Historical Quarterly 83 (spring 1999).
Preservation Georgia and Reflections (newsletters of the Georgia Historic Preservation Division).
The Rambler (Georgia Trust for Historic Preservation), 1974-present.
Joseph F. Thompson and Robert Isbell, Atlanta: A City of Neighborhoods (Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 1994).
Elizabeth A. Lyon, Flowery Branch
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