19 Dec Sweet Auburn office building is among Georgia Trust’s 10 historic ‘Places in Peril’
A Sweet Auburn office building nearly lost to redevelopment is among the “Places in Peril” on the Georgia Trust for Historic Preservation’s annual list of the 10 most endangered historic sites.
The 2023 list — announced Nov. 16 and dated to encourage rescue actions in the coming year — includes five metro Atlanta sites and others statewide, ranging from schools to a semi-ruined mill.
This is the 18th annual list from the Atlanta-headquartered Georgia Trust. The focus is on significant historic buildings or sites that face a “serious threat” to their existence or integrity and have a “demonstrable level of community commitment and support for the preservation.” The Georgia Trust particularly highlights those with active preservation efforts that the listing can promote.
Many sites on previous lists have been saved or at least not lost yet. Among those on last year’s list was the site of Atlanta’s Chattahoochee Brick Company, which notoriously used slave labor by prisoners. The City this year moved ahead on plans to preserve the site as a memorial and park.
“We hope the list will continue to bring preservation solutions to Georgia’s imperiled historic resources by highlighting ten representative sites,” said Georgia Trust President and CEO Mark C. McDonald in a press release.
The local Atlanta Preservation Center (APC) led the advocacy this year on saving the 229 Auburn Ave. office building, which the Georgia Trust joined. APC Executive Director David Yoakley Mitchell successfully nominated that building as well as the Old Campbell County Courthouse in Fairburn to this year’s list, showing the two preservation nonprofits’ continued alignment on specific advocacy efforts.
“The connection of these two significant and vulnerable structures being identified and shared with the entire state exemplifies a genuine desire to see our culture and identity both maintained and preserved,” said Mitchell. “As we all continue to better understand ourselves, these places will serve as guides to improve this work. The partnerships being made in this process make it very satisfying to be bringing attention to the meaningful work of historic preservation.”
The following are the Georgia Trust’s details of this year’s “Places in Peril” and the threats they face.
229 AUBURN AVE.
Dating from sometime between 1892 and 1908, this long-vacant office building in Atlanta’s Sweet Auburn housed Georgia’s first state-chartered Black-owned bank and a branch of the Atlanta Life Insurance Company, an important Black-owned business. That makes it a significant survivor of the neighborhood’s origins as a bastion of Black community wealth and independence in the Jim Crow era of racist segregation and violence.
Long endangered by neglect, the building this year faced a City demolition order due to its condition and driven by a plan to replace it and much of its block with a mixed-use redevelopment including affordable housing, as SaportaReport first revealed. Under public pressure, the developers – the Butler Street Community Development Corporation (CDC) and Gorman & Company – agreed to save the office building and incorporate it into the plan.
“While owners and developers are in the planning process, the rehabilitation and sensible reuse of 229 Auburn is vital to the long-term preservation of this district to maintain its national significance,” says the Georgia Trust.
There is also a bigger context of preservation, as the CDC also owns and has reuse plans for two other historic buildings across the street: Butler Street YMCA and the 1948 Walden Building.