Preservation Posts, May 2016

A Message from the Director

by: Dr. David Crass,
       Division Director & Deputy State Historic Preservation Officer

The Very Substance of Life

“Just touching that old tree was truly moving to me because when you touch these trees, you have such a sense of the passage of time, of history. It's like you're touching the essence, the very substance of life.” – Kim Novak (actress)

“Distinguishing the signal from the noise requires both scientific knowledge and self-knowledge.” – Nate Silver (statistician)

We don’t usually think of trees, historic places, and statistics as having anything in common. But as the actor Kim Novak pointed out, there is an inherent power (if we open ourselves to it) in experiencing the past. Our modes of experiencing that past might well change. For instance, house museums in today’s market have to innovate constantly to attract visitors, whether that’s through dramatizations, new technologies, or programming that emphasizes previously-ignored aspects of history. That’s a far cry from when I was growing up, going to one of the house museums on Duke of Gloucester Street In Williamsburg, Virginia, and listening politely as a costumed interpreter described a rather (in retrospect) stereotypical colonial past that left no room for women, enslaved Africans, children, the poor generally, or the hundreds of yeoman farmers who supported the market town.  

Regular readers of Preservation Posts know that HPD places a high emphasis on our economic development activities, be they tax projects, environmental review, or one of our grants that supports tourism. But we do ourselves, and our forbearers, a disservice if we treat Georgia’s historic resources solely as economic assets. Because while they are indeed economic assets, they tug powerfully at our sense of self, of how we came to be who we are, where we are.  Experiencing a historic place helps us distinguish between the values in life that are important (in Nate Silver’s terminology, the signal) from a world that is increasingly full of digital noise. If we, as historic preservationists, do our jobs well, then we help create that opportunity for self-knowledge. In the end, whether it’s screening for artifacts at an archaeological site thousands of years old, or staying at the Reynolds Mansion on Sapelo Island, when we reach back to touch the past, the people that created that past also reach out, even if indirectly, to touch us as well.

Our Most Favorite Time of the Year!

 HPD Celebrates Historic Preservation Month and Archaelogy Month 


Historic Cemeteries Photo Contest

Stunningly beautiful and powerful reminders of the past, Georgia’s historic cemeteries are among the most visited and most adored historic resources in the state. Could there be, then, a more deserving subject for the Georgia Historic Preservation Division’s 7th annual online photo contest? We didn’t think so, either. 

To celebrate National Historic Preservation Month, and Historic Preservation Month in Georgia, we asked folks from around the state – and even those who just stopped in for a visit – to submit their favorite snapshots of any Georgia cemetery that contained burials more than 50 years old. The response was incredible, as was – to the surprise of no one – the photographs submitted! Nearly 200 photos, from more than 75 photographers, were emailed to HPD from all corners of the state. Represented were family plots, local church cemeteries, large municipal memorials and everything in between. 

We’ve shared with you already – if you follow us on social media – all of the submitted photographs, and have recently announced the winner and runner-ups for this year’s contest. But, here again, we highlight some of our favorites. 

Georgia Historic Preservation/Archaeology Month events

In the time between admiring photo contest entries, HPD staff had the opportunity this month to both celebrate and draw attention to Historic Preservation Month and Archaeology Month in Georgia through various events held in the area. 
In addition to hosting this year’s photo contest, HPD was on-hand for “Archaeology Day in the Village,” an event hosted by New South Associates, on May 7. Archaeology Day offered the public – including hundreds of local children – a chance to learn more about archaeology and get their hands a bit dirty. 

Archaeology staff provided more hands-on instruction later in the month, as HPD participated in Panola Mountain State Park's “Home School Thursday” educational event. Staff was on hand to teach a little about archaeology, and allow kids to check out artifacts up close, and make pottery of their own! And, on May 12, representatives for HPD visited the State Capitol to meet with Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal and commemorate the signing of a proclamation that officially recognized May as both Historic Preservation Month and Archaeology Month in the state. 

A Curious Item in the Marsh: 

 Recovery and analysis of a historic coffin at Fort McAllister State Park. 


by: Rachel Black,
       Deputy State Archaeologist


On a spring day in 2013, the Georgia Historic Preservation Division received a call from Fort McAllister State Park, in Richmond Hill, Ga. During a routine patrol, the assistant park manager stumbled upon what looked to be a coffin protruding from the marsh’s edge.
When then-Deputy State Archaeologist Chris McCabe arrived on site, he did indeed find the head of an empty, yet relatively intact, hexagonal wooden coffin sticking from the cut bank of the marsh.
A find of this nature can be a little startling at first, but is certainly not out of the realm of possibility, especially given the rich history of the area. While probably best known for the Civil War fortification, Fort McAllister, neighboring Genesis Point and the surrounding countryside were all part of a rice plantation prior to and during the Civil War. The oldest land records indicate that Hugh and William Sterling received Genesis Point as a land grant in 1736. The area passed through several hands over the next few years, until it was purchased in 1748 by Captain James MacKay, who built nearby Strathy Hall and began rice cultivation. In 1817, James MacKay sold Strathy Hall to George Washington McAllister.
Sketch map drawn by a member of the Republican Blues while stationed
at Fort McAllister in 1863; shows a slave settlement and soldier encampments near the fort.

McAllister also purchased the adjoining land, which included Genesis Point, and continued to operate the rice plantation. In 1850, George Washington McAllister died suddenly, leaving his son Joseph Longworth McAllister to run the plantation. When the Civil War broke out, it didn’t take long for the Confederacy to identify Genesis Point as a prime location for fortifications. Joseph gladly donated the land for the construction of a fort to be named in honor of his father. Fort McAllister saw fighting over the course of the next three years, finally falling to Sherman’s troops on Dec. 13, 1864. After the War, Joseph’s nephew, Robert Habersham Clay, took possession of Strathy Hall and Genesis Point. He remained the property’s owner until his death in 1924. 
While historical records suggest an abundance of plantation activities in the area where the coffin was located, the question still remained: What in the world was this coffin doing in the marsh, and who put it there? 

The coffin was constructed out of pine and fastened with cut nails. The shoulder joints were rabbeted instead of the mitered joints, which are typically seen in this type of construction. Rabbeting is similar to mitering, however instead of a standard-angled cut, the shorter sidepieces had a small ledge or shelf cut along the outside edge. The lack of evidence of any other hardware or decoration suggests it was a very plain, simple container.

There was no lid recovered, and the coffin measured roughly 68-inches long – which would have accommodated a person about 5’6” in height (not an unusual height for an adult man in the mid-1800s). The coffin was oriented with the head to the west and feet to the east, which is customary in Judeo Christian burials. The only thing out of the ordinary about the coffin, aside from its lack of occupant and seemingly odd location, was a pair of round holes in its side panels. Based on the use of cut nails, the coffin was most likely constructed prior to the 1890s. Historical documents further indicate that there was both a McAllister plantation slave settlement in the area and encampments for soldiers stationed at nearby Fort McAllister. It could easily be attributed to either group. But there is little else to help us determine who might have occupied it. 


Coffin with right side open to show construction, left, Rabbeting along edge and unusual hole in side panel, middle, and an advertisement from the 1870 Savannah City directory. 

While this could merely be a case of a discarded, unused coffin, and there is evidence of a historic dump site nearby, it could have also been an intentional interment. Though the established cemetery associated with McAllister plantation is several miles to the west, near the still-standing Strathy Hall, there could have been another cemetery on Genesis Point. There is also evidence that soldiers were buried at Fort McAllister during the War.

William Dixon, a member of the Republican Blues stationed at Fort McAllister wrote:

“Sunday 6th [March] 1864…The Emmett Rifles arrived here this morning…Priv Murphy of that company died on board of the boat last night. He complained yesterday of feeling unwell but nothing was thought of it and this morning he was found dead. He was buried here this afternoon…” (Durham 2000:200)

Interestingly, prior to the War, Dixon was a cabinet and coffin maker in Savannah. After the War, he returned to his business with partner Dougal Ferguson, and by 1870 was operating full-time as an undertaker. 

The banks of the Ogeechee River on Genesis Point are eroding at an alarmingly fast rate due to a variety of reasons. It is likely that there was an established cemetery near the marsh in the early-to-mid  19th century that has now been claimed by the river. This marsh edge location is consistent with other coastal Georgia cemeteries such as the Butler Island slave cemetery, the slave cemetery at Wormsloe Historic Site, and DuBignon cemetery on Jekyll Island.
Interested in learning more?
  • Durham, Roger S., editor (2000) The Blues in Gray: The Civil War Journal of William Daniel Dixon and the Republican Blues Daybook. University of Tennessee Press, Knoxville.
  • Durham, Roger S. (2009) Guardian of Savannah: Fort McAllister, Georgia, in the Civil War and Beyond. University of South Carolina Press, Columbia.  
  • Swiggert, Carolyn Clay. (1999) Shades of Gray: The Clay & McAllister Families of Bryan County Georgia during the Plantation Years (ca. 1760-1888). Two Bytes Publishing, Ltd. Darien, Connecticut.  
  • Sullivan, Buddy. (2000) From Beautiful Zion to Red Bird Creek: A History of Bryan, County, Georgia. Bryan County Board of Commissioners.  

Grant projects for CLGs begin in May

 Ten Georgia CLGs begin work this month


by: Carole Moore,
        Tax Incentives & Grants Coordinator

The oldest existing grant program administered by the Georgia Historic Preservation Division (HPD) is the federally funded Historic Preservation Fund (HPF) grant, which is directed specifically to Georgia’s Certified Local Governments (CLG), through the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966.

The HPF grant program is appropriated annually from Congress through the National Park Service to support the operations and activities of the nation’s State Historic Preservation Offices (SHPOs). As Georgia’s historic preservation office, HPD reserves 10 percent of each year’s appropriation to award sub-grants (60 percent/40 percent matching) to CLGs for preservation projects in their respective communities. 

“The Certified Local Government program is one of our most important community stabilization and revitalization tools,” said David Crass, HPD Division Director. “By becoming a CLG, neighborhoods take control of their own economic destiny, and gain access to HPD technical expertise and assistance, which helps them protect the resources that make them unique.”
Ten Georgia CLGs are beginning new projects this month, as recipients of the FFY2016 grant cycle. Projects include five historic resources surveys, one GIS database entry project, one predevelopment project for a Revolutionary War battlefield, and three development projects for a house museum, a theater, and a cemetery.  

“Although we are pleased to be able to fund all of these important preservation projects, we are particularly pleased to be able to fund the three development projects in this grant cycle, bringing our total to eight projects since bricks-and-mortar rehabilitation first became an eligible activity for the FFY 2013 grant cycle,” Crass said. 

Although survey applications did not receive funding priority this year (as they did in FFY 2015), surveys remain an important foundation of all preservation activity, and five survey projects were funded in the current cycle. 

“HPD’s Historic Resources Survey Program is looking forward to working with these communities to update and expand their understanding of their local historic resources,” said Stephanie Cherry-Farmer, HPD’s survey and National Register manager. “Surveys are a significant first step toward improved planning for and stewardship of historic resources, and we applaud this local commitment to such progress.”

Three of the five new survey grant projects are continuing with phase two of a previously phased project. The City of Tybee Island received $7,200 to complete its city-wide survey of more than 800 resources begun last year, and McIntosh County received $14,760 to complete phase two of an anticipated, and ambitious, four-phase county-wide survey of approximately 1,000 resources which began last year. Both coastal communities are facing increasing growth and development pressure, and a completed comprehensive survey of existing historic resources will guide future public and private investment and development there. 

The City of Savannah, too, is continuing phase two of its long-term goal to complete a comprehensive survey of the city’s historic resources. Phase one was funded in FFY 2012 and included the Carver Village neighborhood, which has led to a National Register nomination that  will be presented to the Georgia National Register Review Board in August. The $10,000 phase two survey project will focus on the stunning Victorian National Register Historic District, listed in 1974 (last surveyed in 1980), and consisting of approximately 45 city blocks and 900 historic resources.  

“In this new survey, we particularly want to include carriage houses and other secondary buildings,” said Leah Michalak, preservation planner with Savannah’s Metropolitan Planning Commission, who will manage the grant project.

Historic photo of the Hogansville 1937 Royal Theater, left, and a streetscape of downtown Hogansville featuring the Royal Theatre, as it looks today.  

The City of Hogansville, a long-time CLG, will complete a city-wide survey update to an outdated 1991 survey with its $6,000 grant. Hogansville officials especially want to include an intact turn-of-the-19th-century residential mill village in the updated survey. Hogansville is perhaps best known for its 1937 Art Deco style theater, which has held the offices of city hall since 1985. 

The City of Hampton, one of Georgia’s newest CLGs, received $7,200 to help fund phase one of a city-wide survey, required for its CLG designation last year. The city has many intact historic resources including a main street commercial strip and a rehabilitated train depot that now serves as city offices and event space. 

And, finally, The City of Villa Rica received $4,000 to enter a previous 2009 historic resources city survey into the state’s GNAHRGIS system, which will be a benefit to HPD and the statewide inventory of historic resources.

The City of Washington is partnering with the Kettle Creek Battlefield Association to support a $7,800 predevelopment grant for the Revolutionary War Kettle Creek battlefield site in Wilkes County – where 400 Patriots defeated a larger group of Loyalists in 1779. The grant project will fund ground penetrating radar (GPR) and cadaver dog surveys of areas in the battlefield thought to hold the unmarked graves of both patriots and loyalists who died in battle. The cadaver-dog survey will be the first of its type funded by HPD and will act as a prototype for other such surveys. The property currently is being developed as a tourism and memorial park.

The three development projects are located in Augusta, Hartwell, and Athens and all involve partnership with a non-profit organization who own a significant historic resource within their respective communities. 

The City of Augusta, in partnership with the Georgia State Society/National Society Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR), will receive a $20,000 development grant to repair 28 historic windows at Meadow Garden (pictured at top of story), a well-known Georgia site associated with a participant in the American Revolutionary War effort. Built around 1791, and now a National Historic Landmark, the building was the home of Georgia Walton, one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence, along with Lyman Hall and Button Gwinnet. Later, he became a governor and U.S. senator of Georgia. The DAR have owned and maintained the property as a house museum since 1901. 

The City of Hartwell received a $3,500 development
grant for water damage repair to the Hart Community Theatre. 

The City of Hartwell is partnering with the Hart Community Theatre, Inc. in support of a $3,500 development grant to repair interior water damage to a historic turn-of-the-19th-century commercial building, which has served as the local theater since 1983. The theater is located within the Hartwell Commercial National Register Historic District.  

The City of Athens has received a $10,710 development grant to remove and prune invasive trees in the 100-acre cemetery, which was listed in the National Register in 2013. The current grant is a follow-up to a 2013 HPF grant to produce preservation and tree management plans for the cemetery. The tree management plan inventoried 563 individual trees and identified 23 trees for removal within the cemetery. The grant project will be undertaken in partnership with the Friends of Oconee Hill Cemetery and the Trustees of Oconee Hill Cemetery, who own the cemetery.  

The $91,170 total in grant monies provided for the ten projects actually represent nearly $151,950 in preservation activity, considering the leveraging effect of the required 40% local match. Indeed, for  30+ years the grant program has provided, in Georgia, more than $700 million for a variety of different projects, including historic resources/archaeological surveys, National Register nominations, local district designations, design guidelines, historic walking/driving tour brochures, workshops and conferences, website development, video/DVD production, heritage education materials, context studies, historic structure reports, preservation plans, architectural plans and brick and mortar rehabilitation projects. Individually and collectively, therefore, this grant program has had a far-reaching and long-term impact on Georgia’s communities, as their citizens continue to work on preserving, protecting, and promoting their historic resources. For more information on the HPF grant program, visit our website at

Recent News & Announcements

 - SFY 2017 Georgia Heritage Grant Program
Applications are now available on HPD’s website for the 2017 Georgia Heritage Grant Program. The grant program is funded solely by revenue raised through sales of the historic preservation license plate, of which almost 16,000 have been sold since 2009. The application postmark deadline will be Friday, July 1. Eligible applicants include local governments and non-profit secular organizations for historic properties listed in or eligible for listing in the Georgia Register of Historic Places. For further information, or to discuss your potential project, please contact Grants Coordinator Carole Moore at 770-389-47848 or

 - Underrepresented Communities Grant Program
Applications are now available for FY16 “Underrepresented Community” grants administered by the National Park Service. The deadline to apply is July 15, 2016. For details, see: 
For any questions, email or call (202) 354-2020.

Ingleside Historic District Listed in the NRHP - 
(Press Release - May 25)

Georgia Celebrates Historic Preservation Month - 
(Press Release - May 19)

Capitol View Historic District Listed in the NRHP 
(Press Release - May 6)

Upcoming Events

 June 23, 2016 - GMCA Regional Workshop - Social Circle
The Georgia Municipal Cemetery Association will host its 2nd regional workshop this year in Social Circle, Ga., from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on June 23. Presentation topics include ground penetrating radar, disaster preparedness, cemetery ordinances, and monument cleaning/repair demonstrations. The event is $20 per person, which includes lunch. The workshop will be located at 261 S. Cherokee Road, Social Circle 30025. To register, or for more information, see:
Would you like to see an event listed? Email

Want to Contribute?

  Submit a Guest Article 

Preservation Posts is published to inform the public about historic preservation issues and developments from the perspective of the SHPO. In keeping with that purpose, HPD has inaugurated a new policy of occasionally soliciting guest articles that are directly related to our statutorily mandated programs. Please note that we do not publish opinion pieces. We also retain editorial control as well as the right to reject any submission.
To pitch or submit a piece, or ask questions concerning an idea, email HPD Public Affairs Coordinator Jeff Harrison at 
Title Image: A beautiful shot of an angel monument submitted by Traci Rylands, of Dunwoody, Ga., for HPD's 2016 Historic Cemeteries of Georgia photo contest. The photo was taken at Savannah's Laurel Grove North Cemetery.

Copyright © 2016 DNR Historic Preservation Division, All rights reserved.

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