(Featured photo is of 2345 Wrightsboro Road. Photo courtesy Historic Augusta)
Erick Montgomery had a sense of déjà vu when preparing this year’s Historic Augusta Endangered Properties List.
“We were going to list this house on Miller Street,” said the organization’s executive director pointing to a slide at the Oct. 24 press conference at the Sand Hills Community Center. “It would’ve been one of the first on the announcement, but we went over there it was gone.”
The boyhood home of former Augusta Mayor Willie Mays in the “Golden Blocks” section of Augusta had been bulldozed.
The déjà vu came in as Montgomery recalled preparing for the inaugural Endangered Properties List in 2006.
“I was coming to the meeting that morning to make the final decisions on what we were going to list on our very first Endangered Properties List, and the bulldozers were there,” said Montgomery of the Bethel AME Church on Ninth and D’Antignac Streets. “If you don’t speak up for preservation, it’s not going to happen. You’ve got to speak up regardless.”
This year’s list offered a mix of structures, a neighborhood and a special category with an appeal to elected officials.
Called an “Imminently Imperiled Landmark,” the old First Baptist Church at 802 Greene Street was singled out.
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.
New to the list are two neighboring homes on Wrightsboro Road – 2345 and 2349 Wrightsboro Road. They sit at the cusp of the Summerville neighborhood, and investors interested in saving them can qualify for state and federal tax incentives.
Also, the Righton Robertson House at 2128 McDowell Street, which was built in 1928. Another home that is near the site of the demolished Mays’ home – the Green House at 1108 Miller Street – also made the list. It’s part of the Laney-Walker North Historic District which is on the National Register of Historic Places. It’s currently vacant and condemned.
The list also contained an entire neighborhood – the Sand Hills Neighborhood which was nominated to the National Register of Historic Places in 1997. In recent months, many structures have been razed, and several neighborhood residents came to the meeting to learn more about what could be done to save it.
Montgomery told them that Historic Augusta would be there to offer guidance and assist them, but the strength of saving the neighborhood would come as the residents themselves took charge.
There to listen to the residents’ concerns was Augusta Commissioner Francine Scott who met with them at the end of the press conference.
Montgomery also provided some updates on previous additions to the list.
One property that is frequently asked about is Squeaky’s Tip Top at 2570 Central Ave., which is listed as “deteriorating” as is the Weed School.
Some of the residents said the Weed School had been recently purchased and Montgomery said that he had looked online Tuesday to see any updates, but they had not been made when he’d last checked.
The Bohler House at 1108 Phillips Street near the Lucy Craft Laney Museum of History has been deemed saved. It was the site where the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Sr. and his family would visit when they came to town and it was the childhood home or Lt. Henry Bohler, a Tuskegee airman.
Also saved is the Ninth Street Commercial Block which includes 501, 507 and 513 James Brown Boulevard (formerly known as Ninth Street).
A special category was added this year – Augusta’s trees. Montgomery called on city officials to plant new trees where others had been torn down.
He said he realizes that trees need to be pruned at times and that nothing can be done about the trees already torn down, but he felt the issue of cutting so many trees down at one time needed to be addressed.
To learn more, visit Historic Augusta’s website.
Charmain Z. Brackett, the publisher of Augusta Good News, has covered Augusta’s news for 35 years. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Sign up for the newsletter here.
Support local journalism: Local stories on local people, organizations and events. That’s the focus of Augusta Good News. And you don’t have to go through a paywall to find these stories. An independent voice in Augusta, Ga., Augusta Good News is not funded by a billionaire or a large corporation; it doesn’t have celebrity reporters who have agents. It’s local people who are invested in the community and want to tell its stories. You can support local journalism and help us expand our coverage by becoming a supporter. Through Ko-Fi, you can give once or set up a monthly gift. Click here to learn more. Thank you!