Letter to the Editor

Published 9:01 am Thursday, August 27, 2020

Dear Editor:

This Letter to the Editor is written in opposition to the request to demolish the Bainbridge 1885 Shotwell Street house owned by the First Baptist Church. I am a former resident of Bainbridge; and I am a former member of First Baptist. My family moved to Bainbridge in 1945 where we attended First Baptist. I was baptized at First Baptist at the age of twelve; and I joined all its youth programs from R.A.s to service as a choir member for Revivals. I was born in Natchez, Mississippi, home of an annual, month-long “pilgrimage,” showcasing its history, architecture, and decorative arts. Living in Natchez for nine years impressed me to make historic buildings the focus of my career at The University of Georgia, including the founding, the teaching, and the administration of UGA’s graduate historic preservation program from 1982 until 2015, and to write a nationally distributed book Maintaining A Sense of Place: A Citizen’s Guide to Historic Preservation. Also, I fostered passage of state legislation enabling cities across Georgia, including Bainbridge, to adopt a preservation ordinance. While the members of Bainbridge’s Preservation Commission unanimously rejected the request sought by the church’s Buildings and Grounds Committee for demolition of the 1885 house next to the church, one wonders if this request actually reflects church membership opinion. Insensitivity by First Baptist to its surroundings is already demonstrated by 1885 Sanborn Maps of Bainbridge showing First Baptist destroyed five buildings and moved one building from its neighborhood, and now wants to continue that practice despite three offers to restore the 1885 house, but would allow removal of it down Shotwell Street at the expense of destroying two additional houses within the Shotwell Street District. It appears that, despite being only one block from the Downtown Historic District, the church puts personal interests ahead of citizens of the neighborhood and ahead of citizens of the city. These citizens who support preservation need to share their thoughts with the church as well as with the city officials.

John C. Waters

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Athens, Georgia