The Georgia Trust Saving State’s Historic Structures

Through its Endangered Properties Revolving Fund program, the Georgia Trust for Historic Preservation vows to find new owners for threatened buildings.

Photo courtesy Georgia Trust for Historic Preservation Listed for $60,000 through the Endangered Properties program, the Moore-Lewis House is a fine Italianate and antebellum house located in downtown Sparta, about 100 miles south of Atlanta. 

Pick any of Georgia’s many back roads and you’re bound to find abandoned and dilapidated farmhouses left to rot for any number of reasons. Historic antebellum mansions and vital Greek Revival structures sit on the market waiting for new owners to love them, sad old maids all dressed up waiting by the door. In an effort to find these homes proper suitors, in 1990 the Georgia Trust for Historic Preservation established the Endangered Properties Revolving Fund. 

The goal of the fund is to save Georgia’s architecturally and historically significant structures from the wrecking ball or damaging neglect by advocating rehabilitation, ensuring a long-term commitment to their preservation. Some properties are donated while others are optioned. The Trust then markets them in an effort to find the right buyer willing to agree to improve the structure’s condition and keep it maintained. Protective covenants are added to deeds so that the historic integrity is retained. The new owners must agree to annual reports filed by the Trust as well. 

To date more than 20 historic properties have been saved through the program. 

Photo courtesy Georgia Trust for Historic Preservation Cherry Cottage is rumored to be the combination of two 18th-century homes and is available through the Trust's Endangered Properties program for $130,000.

“One of our best success stories is from Lithonia, in the Arabia Mountain Heritage Area.  The property is the Housworth-Moseley House,” Kate Ryan told FrontDoor.  “The house was originally built by a Housworth family member in the first half of the 19th century and stayed in the family, being expanded as needed, until the early 21st century.” 

Ryan is the director of preservation at the Georgia Trust

The farmhouse sits on 7.5 acres about 20 miles south of Atlanta. According to Ryan, when the house was sold in the early 2000s, the buyer intended to demolish the house and develop the property. The good news is that she ended up loving the house and decided against demolition. The bad news is that this happened around the time the housing bubble burst.

“She found herself with a deteriorating house on a chunk of land that was in an area where the construction of quite a few housing developments had abruptly stalled,” explained Ryan. 

The owner put the property in the Endangered Properties Program with an asking price of around $250,000. There were no offers, and after trying more conventional ways of marketing with no success, the property eventually went into foreclosure

“Through the Endangered Properties Program, the Georgia Trust was able to acquire the property from the bank in 2011 and market it, again, with a reduced asking price of $75,000,” said Ryan. “Part of the reason for the lower price was that the buyers would not be able to subdivide or develop any of the property.”

Photo courtesy Georgia Trust for Historic Preservation This house was built in 1798 and is available through the Georgia Trust for Historic Preservation's Endangered Properties program for $65,000. 

Within six months a proper buyer made an offer. As with any properties sold through the Endangered Properties Program, the Georgia Trust retained a conservation easement in order to protect the house and the land from inappropriate development in perpetuity. 

“The new owners have now wonderfully restored the house and have really made it their home,” said Ryan. “They continue to improve the grounds and in addition to a few chickens that they already have, hope to expand to a quaint gentlemen's farm just 20 miles from downtown Atlanta.” 

To find out more about the Georgia Trust’s Endangered Properties Revolving Fund and their selection process, go to their website. You can also take a look at the properties currently available through the program. 

The Trust will also host a lecture on the revitalization and rebirth of historic Senoia, Ga., at Rhodes Hall on Thursday, Sept. 19, at 6 p.m. Located about an hour south of Atlanta, Senoia was the backdrop for the recent remake of Footloose and was where Fried Green Tomatoes was filmed. Scenes from Driving Miss Daisy were also shot there, and Walking Dead fans will recognize the town square. 

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