After going to the Sunol Community Center this week and seeing feeling the history within the walls of that building, I started thinking about how history should be preserved. As I described last week, Boston does a pretty good job of preserving history.
Atlanta on the other hand, not so good. Many times over the years, some groups of people have tried to demolish the Margaret Mitchell house, where she wrote “Gone with the Wind.” Other groups, so far, have recognized the significance of this piece of historical property and have always saved it from demolition.
The Tudor-Revival building was constructed in 1899. Mitchell lived there only briefly but the building has undergone many incarnations and has survived a couple of fires and building-relocations throughout the years. But it remains today as one of the ever-declining number of historic buildings in Atlanta.
Atlanta once had brownstones, called Baltimore Row, constructed in the late 1800s. The historic brownstones suffered neglect and disrepair and all but one building (that contains seven units) have been demolished over the years. Those seven units are now, sadly, offices.
Sure, Sherman’s troops burned much of Atlanta, so the pre-Civil War buildings really don’t exist except for random structures. But the remaining old buildings are becoming victims to the wrecking ball more frequently.
Atlanta does have a few buildings that have survived since the late 1800s and early 1900s. The city is home to two Flat Iron buildings, one of which pre-dates the famous Flat Iron in New York.
The Fulton Bag and Cotton Mill building in the Cabbagetown area was built in 1881; after 100 years, it was close to being demolished. Then a developer decided to convert the building into loft apartments. This idea went over well.
So the idea to convert old mills, old schools and other old buildings into living quarters began catching on. In-town living has become chic again and urban re-development is becoming popular. This renaissance has saved a few historical buildings from demolition.
When I walked through the Sunol building, this idea was on my mind. I could picture how the rooms would look if they were converted into apartments. It is a shame for a building like that to fall into further ruin, or to be demolished.
I made a pledge to do whatever I could to help spark an interest in the building. Even though I am not from this area, I have an immense interest in preserving historical pieces of the past.
The architects of old buildings were artists. We must preserve the buildings that they created to maintain a solid link to the past. Because if we don’t preserve something from the past, there will be nothing to show to future generations, only faded pictures and hollow memories of what used to exist.
This reminds me of a quote by a friend, Stephen Bazzell a singer/songwriter from Atlanta. I can’t remember it verbatim, but it went something like this: Honor the artists, poets, photographers, musicians and writers in the world, because they will preserve history. They capture how things are today. So that someday, people will have more to remember the past by other than just a bunch of strip malls, fast food restaurants and commercialism.
The artists preserve history, but the artists need historical landmarks to be preserved so that they can photograph it, paint it, sculpt it, or write or sing about it.
Lisana Eckenrode can be contacted at [email protected]