Sam Burnham, Curator
Washington takes a lot of criticism and will continue to do so. I can be pretty harsh to the capital city. But I noticed one thing in town there that I think is worth mentioning.
Washington is doing a great job preserving its old buildings. We all know they maintain The White House, the Capitol, all the typical historic sites. I’m talking about the average, the everyday. I mean row houses and old theaters and corner stores. Your typical buildings Atlanta would have bulldozed years ago - Washington is preserving them.
People are investing in paint and trim and lighting and signage. They’re buying up abandoned or blighted buildings and they’re bringing them back. The buildings have character and a past - albeit not as well known as other DC structures.
Even when hosting tenants such as Starbucks or CVS, the structures offer unique character to their neighborhoods. All across the city we found a renaissance of sorts. It was refreshing.
That’s not to say there is no modern design structures going up. There are. The sleek steel and glass structures are going in here and there. That is to be expected in a city of that size. It’s just refreshing to see the time, effort, and attention going into the old neighborhoods and the houses that make them up.
Sam Burnham, Curator
It’s easy to get caught up in the parts of history that deal with major events and famous people. But just like the present, most of history is made by regular people doing regular things.
That brings us to an old cotton mill in Jefferson. In 1899 people began working here, providing for their daily needs, keeping a roof over their heads, keeping food on their table by laboring in Georgia’s massive cotton industry.
And now, about 120 years later, people are still using the complex to do just that. In part of the complex you’ll find an antique mall. There are other businesses as well. There also appears to be some more space for future use and development.
One particular business operating there is an event space. This is a beautifully restored venue. There are modernized restrooms, plenty of room for a dance floor as well as tables and chairs. There's a bar in one corner. They've added climate control that the workers in the 20th Century would have loved to have.
In a space where the workers toiled away, wiping sweat from their brow, you can now attend an elegant party or reception. So thorough is the transition you'd assume the structure was built for these sorts of events. It is an excellent reuse of an old structure that could ver easily have been scrapped and replaced with a more moderns edifice.
The best part is that the character of the old building makes a strong contribution to the experience. Old timbers, old brick, and stained concrete flooring offer a little something that new lightweight construction just can't match.
This is yet another win that we have found. Not only is the building still around, it is fulfilling it's original purpose albeit in a much different manner. It pays to go for the restoration and preservation route. We definitely give this one a thumbs up.
Sam Burnham, Curator
We've gotten word from our friend at Vanishing South Georgia that the Irwinville Hotel in Irwin County has been demolished to make way for a new Dollar General store. The wood framed structure was constructed in the mid-1880's and is another in a series of losses in the small South Georgia town. The building had reportedly been used for many years as a residential rental property and had seen numerous interior renovations and changes. In a small town with few historic structures remaining, any such loss is a big one.
Brian at VSG and I agree that saving these historic structures is not the job of the government with regulation or actions that supersede the rights of property owners. The former owner of this structure has the legal and moral right to sell the property to anyone he chooses. In turn, the new owner has the same right to demolish the structure and replace it with something of their choosing. including a chain discount store with a saturated market.
The job of saving our history is ours. It's our job to explain why these places matter. It's our job to offer new and helpful methods for property owners to maintain such structures. It's our job to foster a society that loves and appreciates the past and wants to preserve it. We need to form a culture that cherishes these treasures. We should save our past because it is important to us - more important to us than profit. We have to love our places and encourage others to do so as well.
This one is gone. It's lost forever. But there are still more that are in danger but can be saved and are worth saving. They may be in your town. They may be in earshot of your voice. How you speak or act in their favor could make a difference in their survival, Let's foster a love of our past and try to save the next one.
Historian, self-proclaimed gentleman, agrarian-at-heart, & curator extraordinaire