first baptist

Augusta’s old First Baptist and Martinez’s Cedar Grove listed as ‘places in peril’ by state agency

(Featured photos is from inside the old First Baptist Church. Courtesy Georgia Trust for Historic Preservation)

Augusta’s old First Baptist Church has made a second endangered properties list; this time, the Georgia Trust for Historic Preservation put it on its 2024 list of 10 Places in Peril in the state.

The list was released on Wednesday, Nov. 15. It’s one of two sites in the Augusta area to be placed on the lists. Cedar Grove in Martinez also made the top 10.

“This is the Trust’s nineteenth annual Places in Peril list,” said W. Wright Mitchell, president and CEO of the Trust. “We hope the list will continue to bring preservation solutions to Georgia’s imperiled historic resources by highlighting ten representative sites.”

On Oct. 24, Historic Augusta issued its annual Endangered Properties List and called First Baptist Church, an “Imminently Imperiled Landmark.”

Built in 1902 with its Beaux Arts’ architecture and signature dome, the structure is on the site of the founding of the Southern Baptist Convention and is privately owned.

This structure was originally listed as an Endangered Property in 2014 and moved into the “progress”’ category in 2017, but officials stress that “if action is not taken soon, the structure is at risk of hitting the point of no return. The dome has severe deterioration of the skylight, and there is significant failure of the internal gutters, window deterioration and much more moisture infiltration. Every time it rains, the structure deteriorates further,” according to the official verbiage on the list.

Named after the cedar trees planted in the front of the home, Cedar Grove was built in 1851 in the Italianate style. Following the end of the Civil War, the house was owned by several prominent residents of Columbia County. In 1964, Our Savior Episcopal Church bought the property, converting part of the house into a sanctuary and hosting community meetings and events. From 1970 to 1980, the house functioned as Cedar Grove Kindergarten which served as the first integrated kindergarten program in Columbia County, according to the news release.

Cedar Grove. Courtesy photo

Over the decades, the congregation has made use of the property as it best fits the needs of its mission. The recent discovery of mold, along with the ongoing costs of maintenance, threaten the continued use of the building, as the needs and capacity of the congregation have changed. Advocates hope that raising awareness will help identify a thoughtful approach to its preservation.

Other sites on the list include Atlanta Constitution Building in Atlanta, Broad Avenue Elementary in Albany, Church of the Good Shepherd in Thomasville; Grace Baptist Church in Darien, Hogg Hummock on Sapelo Island; Pine Log Mountain, Bartow County; Piney Grove Cemetery, Atlanta; and Sugar Valley Consolidated School in Sugar Valley.

Places in Peril is designed to raise awareness about Georgia’s significant historic, archaeological and cultural resources, including buildings, structures, districts, archaeological sites and cultural landscapes that are threatened by demolition, neglect, lack of maintenance, inappropriate development or insensitive public policy.

Through Places in Peril, the Trust will encourage owners and individuals, organizations and communities to employ proven preservation tools, financial resources and partnerships in order to reuse, reinvest and revitalize historic properties that are in peril.

Sites on previous years’ lists include the Eleanor Roosevelt School in Warm Springs, the country’s last constructed Rosenwald School, which received a $700K restoration grant from the National Park Service; Cherry Grove Schoolhouse in Washington, a rare surviving example of an early 20th century rural African American school building in Georgia, was completely restored and received the Trust’s highest preservation award, the news release said.

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