Fayetteville continues to tear down its history. Does anyone care?
The city of Fayetteville’s motto is “a past with a future.” Soon, that motto may need to be changed to “a future without a past.”
The city has lost many of its historic homes at an alarming rate in just the past few years.
The city of Fayetteville is currently considering another demolition permit for a historic home on Ga. Highway 54.
City Planning Director Brian Wismer has stated that the home is perfectly sound and in fine condition, but the city has no ordinances that protect historic properties.
The new property owner, the First United Methodist Church of Fayetteville, has no plans for the house and simply wants it torn down for future expansion. The church has expanded over a full city block many times in the past few decades.
The downtown and surrounding neighborhoods, which include one of the oldest courthouses in the state, is not even a registered district listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Mr. Wismer, who is also the Main Street program manager, laments the loss of these buildings but says his hands are tied. I suggest the city needs to get the district registered, become a certified local government, adopt new ordinances that protect the area, and set new standards and guidelines.
As a frequent visitor to Fayetteville for over 10 years now, I have spent a lot of time there, and am worried about this trend of waste and needless destruction.
The state non-profit, The Georgia Trust for Historic Preservation, has also commented on this particular case and are in favor of finding an alternative to demolition.
One of the most disturbing revelations is that the local firm of Historical Concepts in Peachtree City has completed a future master plan for the church’s newly acquired property, and has not included this home as part of that plan.
This architectural firm known for creating new structures based on a historic precedent is not fighting to save this “authentic” historic building. Over the years the county has been the biggest perpetrator of this destruction.
To understand my perspective further, please read the email below I sent to Mr. Wismer during the public comment period. You may quote from it for any article you choose to write.
I am a fellow Main Street Program Manager in two separate communities and work as a private historic preservation consultant on the side, so I know the challenges that come with downtown revitalization, adaptive reuse, economic restructuring, and restoring old homes. I can imagine yours is a tough position being both the Main Street manager and Planning and Zoning director.
I am very troubled not only by the proposed demolition of this home by the neighboring church, but by the rash of tear-downs in Fayetteville over the last four years.
In just that time alone, I have seen four significant historic homes fall to the bite of the bulldozer.
Each home was eligible for the National Register of Historic Places by virtue of their age, but also vernacular architecture. Each one was a record of its time and maintained a high degree of historic integrity. Some of these demolitions were instigated by Fayette County, some by city, but all allowed with little to no justification.
This is surprising to me, downright shocking, simply because I have always held the city of Fayetteville in such high regard as to urban planing. ... In fact I often tell people not from the area that Fayetteville is the model for a beautiful modern city with a historic core. I tell them that so many cities with nice downtowns are often very blighted outside that area, or at least victims of poor planning and urban sprawl. Somehow, Fayetteville has kept their historic core, but also managed growth with vision, restraint, and good design. I have not travled anywhere else in the South with so many subdivisions that still give me the feeling I’m taking a drive in the country side.
And yet, even with these admirable qualities I fear for the city because of the rapid loss of what makes it truly special: its history. This is what first drew me to Fayetteville and attracts me still. I had my wedding reception in 2002 at the historic Hollingsworth House. All those family members that came from out of state stayed in a local hotel, frequented local stores, and spent money in Fayetteville. That was all because of the historic character of the town.
I stayed in nearby Senoia at the historic Veranda Inn on our honeymoon. I even seriously considered buying a historic home in Fayetteville on Lee Street. I went so far as to meet with the property owner and toured the house.
Today, that house is gone. Demolished. The county bought it and tore it down, along with another smaller residence from the 1940s, also on the same property. Now the WIC office stands there. A generic, unattractive trailer has taken the place of the once proud wood-frame vernacular home with stained glass windows, pressed tin shingles, full-width front porch, hard wood floors and three antique fire places.
A family cannot live there anymore, nor pay taxes on the land, nor contribute to the economy, nor volunteer in the community. That opportunity is lost. And the trend continues.
The county tore down the twin to that very same house just down the street where Senior Services used to be. A beautiful two story, wood frame home across the street from Dunkin’ Donuts on Hwy. 85 was torn down that same year.
I’ve heard stories that the county also tore down the old Lieutenant Governor’s house where the new judicial facility is located.
A Fayetteville resident told me they were even prohibited from salvaging anything from that house before it was torn down and hauled to the dump.
Though I still love Fayetteville and laud its good traits, this disregard for “sense of place” and the apathetic reaction to these improper demolitions has taken the glow off Fayetteville for me. Now people from outside the area hear a different perception of the city from me.
I can’t believe that there is no historic district, no certified local government, no preservation ordinances. For a city so progressive in some regards, the lack of protection for historic resources is a bit archaic and backwards. You can say, it’s just one house, but after several years of that kind of reaction, you may look around and notice, “wow, it was really a whole neighborhood.”
... Now, I would think twice before investing my money in Fayetteville until I see some more steps to correct the trend of destruction. How many other people like me feel the same way? Is there anyway to really gauge just how much the city is losing out on? People who would have come to Fayetteville will now go over to Senoia or Newnan.
... I have not been inside the home, but I have walked its perimeter several times and studied it closely. I’ve looked in several windows to inspect the interior ceilings for water damage, etc. The structure seems secure, with good bones, a good roof, no evidence of dry rot or termite damage. The clapboard is painted and sealed, all is intact. The house has amazing integrity for being built (I deduce) between 1900 and 1910.
... The home should not be torn down. This is not how an enlightened and progressive city behaves. I would expect a Main Street Program Manager who understands the four-point approach and the importance that design and preservation plays in revitalizing a downtown to stand up for these things before the City Council.