Athens Preservation Awards

Audience members take their seats before the Athens Clarke Heritage Foundation’s 50th Annual Preservation Awards at the Morton Theatre in Athens, Georgia on Monday, June 3, 2019. (Photo/Caroline Barnes, https://carolinembarnes.wixsite.com/photography)

Taking cues from other local and state governments like Georgia Trust and Historic Macon, the Athens-Clarke Heritage Foundation (ACHF) announced its effort to save historic sites with the new Athens Places in Peril program.

The idea started from community input earlier this year as the foundation chose six historic sites from a list of 25, with the help of the foundation’s awards community.

“We have to make sure we’re only making promises we can keep, so we felt six was the right size, ACHF Executive Director Tommy Valentine said. “For lists like these, you go in wanting to save every space but realizing its difficult to save any space.”

The foundation has chosen Beech Haven, The American Legion / Frank C. Maddox Center, Central Baptist Church Cemetery, Billups Grove School House, Whitehall and Reese Street School, according to a news release.

The Maddox Center, constructed by African-American WWI veterans, was Athens first licensed daycare for African-American children. The cultural and community hub is “currently in need of stabilization and rehabilitation.”

Located on Lexington Road, the Billups Grove School House was used to teach local African-Americans during the Jim Crow era. The schoolhouse is now “threatened by deterioration.”

The plans will promote each site’s history, heritage and raise awareness to the sites condition. Additionally, local preservation community members will create a maintenance and preservation plan for each site. The foundation also aims to host community input sessions to raise funds and schedule volunteer clean-up days per site.

The initiative kicks off Aug. 22 in ACHF’s headquarters as apart of the organization’s monthly preservation potluck. Valentine hopes to not only get community organizers but UGA faculty and staff involved in the project.

“There’s just a certain, special something about living in Athens, a certain formula. So much of that formula has to do with our history,” Valentine said. “That formula can be represented in our stories, recipes, neighborhood, and represented in the spaces we save. That special formula is really special to keeping Athens.”

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