The Athens-Clarke Heritage Foundation, the local nonprofit organization which has worked for decades to educate the community on the value of historic preservation and to honor the people and businesses that have been committed to historic preservation, and which has been instrumental in saving numerous Athens landmarks, has reached a landmark of its own this year.
The foundation, formed in 1967 as urban redevelopment was laying waste to many of the community’s stately Greek Revival and Victorian mansions, is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year.
On Friday, the anniversary of the organization’s founding, the milestone was marked with a Founders’ Day Proclamation Breakfast at the Church-Waddel-Brumby House — now the Athens Welcome Center — which was the first structure saved by the foundation.
The ACHF was part of a movement that included citizens, the city government, and even the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development that would, in 1972, secure protection of the circa-1820 house.
In the years leading up to the saving of the Church-Waddel-Brumby House, the ACHF had been actively laying the groundwork for local historic preservation, undertaking a survey of the community’s historic homes, initiating an annual home tour, taking a lead role in seeking National Register of Historic Places designation for a number of Athens neighborhoods, and sponsoring the first statewide preservation conference in Georgia.
In the years since, the ACHF has continued its leading role in local preservation efforts. As just a few examples, in 1974, the ACHF saved the Franklin House from demolition; in 1985, the organization advocated for the passage of a historic preservation ordinance for Athens; in 1994, it participated in a redesign of The Classic Center which saved Fire Hall No. 1; in 2003, it established local Black History Month tours; in 2009, the nonprofit launched Athens Heritage Walks, a guided tour series, and during 2014 and 2015, the ACHF raised $60,000 to stabilize and preserve the historic Beech Haven Summer House and its distinctive camel-back bridge.
The ACHF has a number of activities planned for the remainder of this year as it pauses to reflect on its first 50 years in Athens. Later this year, the ACHF will partner with the Rabbit Box storytelling initiative to share stories from the late 1960s in Athens, a time during which numerous historic structures were threatened or lost to redevelopment.
Also, throughout 2017, the ACHF will be involved in a “places in peril” initiative that will use articles, tours and lectures to bring public attention to the historic resources in Athens that are under some threat of loss.