Old Ruskin Church, Ware County, GA

Traveling across Highway 84 in Ware County, Georgia, you’ll see a worn sign with red lettering on the side of the road in Ruskin, an unincorporated community in Waycross.

Off Highway 84.

Off Highway 84.

Looking back down the dirt road (in front of the church).

Looking back down the dirt road and across the tracks (in front of the church).

The “Old Ruskin Church” intrigues a preservationist familiar with John Ruskin’s, The Seven Lamps of Architecture.  Pull over, make a u-turn and turn down the southern dirt road, Griffin Road. Cross the tracks at the curve in the road is the Old Ruskin Church. This darling white church sits quietly beneath the picturesque canopy of long leaf pines, among the fallen pine straw.  On a sunny day, it seemed to be one of the most serene spots to find.

Old Ruskin Church.

Old Ruskin Church.

Perfect southern setting.

Perfect southern setting.

The steeple among the pines.

The steeple among the pines.

Beautiful detail on this little church. And also many bees nests. It's in need of some maintenance.

Beautiful detail on this little church. And also many bees nests. It’s in need of some maintenance.

One more for good measure.

One more for good measure.

The Old Ruskin Church, ca. 1899, belonged to the Ruskin Commonwealth, a Utopian socialist community incorporated in 1899. This community was founded by 240 people who moved near Waycross in 1899 from the Ruskin Colony in Tennessee (1896-1899). As the name suggests, the community was founded on principles of the English social reformer John Ruskin.  See photographs of the community here. Unfortunately, the settlement lasted only a few years, disbanding in 1901 due to poor farming land, poor business ventures, disease and poverty.

Who owns this church? What goes on here? There was no indication. Do you know anything about it? Please share!

Preservation Pop Quiz: Buena Vista, GA edition

It’s been a while since there’s been a Preservation Pop Quiz around these parts. This one is from my travels in Georgia. A group of us attended a local art opening in Buena Vista, GA. The opening took place in a historic building, though the drop ceiling and other modifications hid the original details of the building. But, like the preservationist that I am, I walked around the perimeter of the big room and looked up, staring at a particular corner for a while. Why was this door here and how did it function? I do have the answer to this one, but tell me your impressions first!

First up: the exterior of the building in Buena Vista, GA.

First up: the exterior of the building in Buena Vista, GA.

Storefront of the building.

Storefront of the building.

Exterior of the particular corner that perplexed me.

Exterior of the particular corner that perplexed me.

Interior space for the art opening. Note the fluorescent lights and drop ceiling.

Interior space for the art opening. Note the fluorescent lights and drop ceiling. Corner in question is on the right.

The interior corner, a door.

The interior corner, a door.

Bottom of the door.

Bottom of the door.

Looking up above the door.

Looking up above the door.

Looking up in the same area.

Looking up in the same area.

You can see the door, then the transom, then the ceiling.

You can see the door, then the transom, then the ceiling.

And another interesting feature of this building. Vents beneath the sidewalk.

And another interesting feature of this building. Vents beneath the sidewalk. (Unrelated to the quiz question.)

What do you think?

NTHP Savannah 2014: A Location Review

A street near Forsyth Park: porches, brick sidewalk, mature trees.

A street near Forsyth Park: porches, brick sidewalk, mature trees.

Savannah, Georgia: a perfect setting for the National Trust for Historic Preservation Conference (or “PastForward” as we call it these days). Historic homes and live oaks draped with spanish moss line the gridded streets and monumental squares of Savannah, planned in the manner of the Ogelthorpe Plan. Everywhere you look, the architecture is beautiful and photo-worthy. It’s a photogenic city in every sense of the word (and we preservationists love our photographic documentation). The Savannah Historic District is a National Historic Landmark District designated in 1966. The Historic Savannah Foundation is active in restoration, stewardship, and community involvement to achieve its mission of preserving and protecting Savannah’s heritage. Students of the Savannah College of Art & Design benefit from having Savannah as a living, learning lab. Historic preservation and heritage are common conversations in Savannah (not to imply that it is always easy). You can understand why preservationists were excited for a conference in Savannah. After attending the conference, I can say that my excitement for Savannah was well worth it. The National Trust has always put together great conferences, too.

However, I am interested in discussing the location in more detail. Anyone up for it? Let me explain. Many of the conference sessions were held at the Savannah International Trade & Convention Center located on Hutchinson Island, which is across the river from the city of Savannah. It’s a short drive over the bridge or a free ferry ride across the river, which wasn’t really a big deal. The issue that I found (and discussed and overheard many times) related to the fact that the convention center felt so far removed from downtown Savannah.

Looking at Hutchinson Island, waiting for the ferry from the Savannah side.

Looking at Hutchinson Island, waiting for the ferry from the Savannah side.

Why did it feel so far removed? The only places on the island were the convention center and a Westin hotel. This meant that there were no local businesses to support on the island. Your break between sessions, if any break, could not be spent wandering the street to another session and passing by the local stores or cafes. Speaking of cafes, there was no place to buy a cup of coffee or a snack or lunch on the island, unless you wanted to spend an arm and a leg at the corporate hotel next door. If you took time to catch the ferry and head back to the city side, you would miss sessions, probably those lunch time sessions! That was not convenient.

In such a large convention center, there was definitely space to contract with a few local cafes or caterers to sell coffee, lunch, or snacks. If contracts limited that option, perhaps that was not the best location. On Thursday and Friday there were “nosh and network” breaks in the preservation studio, but it didn’t quite fit the bill. Most people eat and drink coffee on different schedules. This seemed like a major oversight.

In a city so large with so many hotels located in the downtown historic district, it would seem that session locations could be spread out and attendees could walk from one to another or easily slip outside for a coffee before catching the next session. Spending most of the day in a convention center, only staring at the historic district across the river, felt odd to a preservationist, particularly to one attending a historic preservation conference.

Perhaps there were perfectly good reasons to site the conference across the river. It should be noted that field sessions, TrustLive and other events were located on the city side of the river, but many sessions were held at the convention center. I’d be interested to know why. And I’d recommend to the National Trust that the next conference be sited more in line with preservation practices.

In summary: great conference content, great overall location, poor conference HQ choice.

What do you think?

In Savannah at the National Historic Preservation Conference

This week is the annual National Trust for Historic Preservation Conference in Savannah, GA. If you’re in with the social media crowd (anyone can be, jump on!) you’ll see the hashtag #presconf and #pastforward. If you see that this week, you’ll know that person is hanging out with a couple of thousand preservationists in Savannah. It’s warm and sunny and beautiful, and I’m looking forward an intense few days of preservation overload, in the best possible way. Already, I’ve been touring Georgia with some of my Vermont preservation colleagues and we’ve had a blast and some true southern experiences. I hope you don’t mind picture overload! Get ready for more this week.

If you’re not able to be here in Savannah, the NTHP has made it easier to join from afar. Check out these live streaming events. Register (free) so you can get your virtual attendance packets. Hope you enjoy. Let me know how it goes! 

One part of the conference includes the exhibitor’s hall, at which preservation minded businesses, organizations, and schools set up camp to chat with conference goers and let everyone know what they have to offer. This week it is my pleasure to share with you the Historic Bridge Foundation. Read on in the next post. 

Georgia Pop Quiz Answer

For the Preservation Pop Quiz, Georgia edition. If you’re following the comments, you’ll see that the answer has already been revealed (from the knowledgeable Andrew P. Wood). However, for those who do not track comments, read on.

Mystery site in Georgia. Photo courtesy of Chad Carlson.

Mystery site in Georgia. Photo courtesy of Chad Carlson.

The mystery structure is a smoke house that was part of the Granite Hill Plantation in Sparta, Georgia. The answer (as well as the quiz) comes from Chad Carlson.

Granite Hill Plantation. Photo courtesy of Chad Carlson.

Historic Granite Hill Plantation. Photo courtesy of Chad Carlson.

The plantation was owned by Andrew Jackson Lane in the 1850s. At the time of the Civil War it had 74 slaves, 22 structures, on 2200 acres. The smoke house was the last remnant of the plantation. The main house was moved to Macon, GA, in 1968, and was destroyed by a fire very soon thereafter. (You can see the smokehouse in the background of the main house.) Most thought it was a jail for slaves because of the bars on the windows. I came across an article on Granite Hill Planation from the “Southern Cultivator” magazine from 1859 wherein it mentions “a two story smokehouse of finely dressed granite.” Since meat would have been the most valuable commodity on the plantation the bars were placed in the windows to keep people out. Given the size of the building it was probably also used for storage of other commodities as well.

Granite Hill Plantation in 1968. Photo courtesy of Chad Carlson.

Granite Hill Plantation in 1968. Photo courtesy of Chad Carlson.

The Granite Hill Plantation house being moved in 1968. Photo courtesy of Chad Carlson.

The Granite Hill Plantation house being moved in 1968. Photo courtesy of Chad Carlson.

The Sparta Kaoline Corporation bought the property in 1998 to mine the granite beneath the building. Stonemason Brent Kickbush was hired to destroy the smokehouse. His attempts to find someone to have the smoke house reconstructed on their property were unsuccessful and the building was torn down.

Want to learn more? Check out this video from Chad.

Preservation Pop Quiz: A Georgian Mystery

Let’s pretend it’s not freezing cold and winter, shall we? (Though if you are a skier, you love this weather, I know.) Turn your attention to the southeast. Georgia, to be exact.

Mystery site in Georgia. Photo courtesy of Chad Carlson.

Mystery site in Georgia. Photo courtesy of Chad Carlson.

What’s your guess?

Georgia, VT Schoolhouse

This schoolhouse – District No. 2 in Georgia, Vermont – is listed in the National Register of Historic Places and has been restored according to the Secretary of Interior’s Standards. It is also known as the Georgia Stone School.

View of the schoolhouse from the road.

View of the schoolhouse from the road. The stone section was built in 1843. The frame addition was constructed to bring the school to education standards.

National Register of Historic Places.

National Register of Historic Places.

These windows are replacement in-kind.

These  8/8 windows are replacement in-kind. The window bank is an easy identifier of a schoolhouse.

A small parking lot is set away from the schoolhouse and visitors walk through the trees. The cars do not obscure the historic setting of the building, as they are out of sight.

A small parking lot is set away from the schoolhouse and visitors walk through the trees to this view. The cars do not obscure the historic setting of the building, as they are out of sight.

Looking inside the ell.

Looking inside the ell.

Another view inside the ell.

Another view inside the ell. See the chalkboard on the back wall.

The stone school house has historic photographs and documents on display.

The stone school house has photographs and documents on display.

What a beautiful restoration it is. The schoolhouse is privately owned, and is open for private special events. It’s nice to see historic buildings rehabilitated for personal use.

Studying and Evaluating Ranch Houses

As odd as this is for me to admit (again), ranch houses are growing on me. But, let’s clarify here, by ranch houses I mean those carefully designed, not your standard, modern ranch house. Ranch houses have an interesting history, and when considered in context, it is possible to appreciate the ranch house.

Clearly, the folks in Georgia are light years ahead of me in terms of appreciation and study of the ranch house. New South Associates has recently released, The Ranch House in Georgia: Guidelines of Evaluation. It is a beautiful, colorful, fun, thorough and intriguing publication — one that will make you look differently than ranch houses.

The Ranch House in Georgia

The Ranch House in Georgia discusses the context for ranches, their architectural typology, how to identify and categorize ranch houses, and their period of significance. I love it.

As far as I know, 200+ page document is only available as a PDF. If it were a book, I’d buy it!

If you’re interested, here’s the press release from New South Associates:

The Ranch House in Georgia: Guidelines for Evaluation was awarded national public history prize. The Guidelines also received an award from the Georgia Trust for Historic Preservation.

The Ranch House in Georgia: Guidelines for Evaluation, authored by Mary Beth Reed and Patrick Sullivan and designed by Tracey Fedor, lays the groundwork for the research, survey, and evaluation of the Ranch House in Georgia for preservation professionals. Funded by the Georgia Transmission Corporation, the document is one of the first in the nation focusing on this iconic mid-century house type. The authors collaborated with the Georgia Historic Preservation Division, the Georgia Transmission Corporation, and the Georgia Department of Transportation in the effort, producing a history of the Ranch House, a field guide for its identification, and evaluation tools to assess eligibility to the National Register of Historic Places. Since its release in 2010, the Guidelines has received the Georgia Trust for Historic Preservation Service Award and has been named recipient of The National Council on Public History’s 2011 Michael C. Robinson Prize for Historical Analyses that recognizes studies that directly contribute to public policy formation. The Guidelines and Georgia’s approach to Ranch House architecture have also been featured in an article by Dr. Richard Cloues of the Georgia Historic Preservation Division in the Winter 2011 issue of the Recent Past.

New South Associates is a women-owned small business providing cultural resource management services, both nationally and internationally. Incorporated in Georgia in 1988, the firm has grown to include offices in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Tennessee. The firm’s work has been recognized for its ability to integrate studies of sites and structures of the past, with planning and construction for the future. New South Associates is a historic preservation and cultural resources management consultant, providing archaeology, history, architectural history, preservation planning, and public interpretation resources as well as cemetery, geophysical and subsistence studies. To learn more, visit our website at www.newsouthassoc.com or contact Kristen Puckett. Share on Facebook or Twitter.

PreservationFEST

PreservationFEST is TODAY! If you’ve been thinking about joining Historic Macon Foundation or if you’re just interested in learning more about what we do and seeing our mission in action, join us from 5pm-7pm for music, drinks, food and fellowship at 306 Orange Street, right behind Mercer’s law school. For just $10, you’ll get a first-time, introductory membership to Historic Macon and help support our mission. The event is free for members!

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Who is in Macon, Georgia? You should go- good drinks, good conversation, what a nice Friday. Thanks to Kristi Chase for sending along this information.