The public will decide which of these three historic Columbus properties deserves tens of thousands of dollars to help preserve them:
▪ The Springer Opera House
▪ The Liberty Theatre & Cultural Center
▪ The Wynn House.
They are the finalists in the Historic Columbus Foundation’s inaugural Public Participation Grant competition.
The foundation’s preservation committee selected them out of 12 applicants representing historic properties, HCF executive director Elizabeth Barker said during Thursday’s announcement at the organization’s headquarters in The Rankin House, 1440 Second Ave.
“After a very, very long discussion, three applications slightly edged out their fellow applicants,” Barker said. “Our finalists are all significant resources in our community, with projects that strongly impact the future of their structures.”
The Springer Opera House (c. 1871), designated as the State Theatre of Georgia, requests $100,000 to fund a new roof for the theater, repair damage to the ceiling on the third-floor balcony caused by a water leak and remove mold from the basement under the saloon.
The Liberty Theatre & Cultural Center (c. 1924), which promotes African-American heritage for the benefit of all, requests $90,000 to fund a new roof for the theater and main lobby and to replace the HVAC systems in the theater, dance studio, dressing rooms, costume workshop and green room.
The Wynn House (c. 1839), a Greek Revival mansion providing space for educational and cultural gatherings, requests $70,000 to repair and replace the balustrade and supporting structure on the uppermost portion of the roof, the cupola, and to clean and paint the entire house.
“Roofs may not seem exciting at first blush,” Barker said, “but they are one of the most important components to ensuring these buildings remain standing and serving this community, both economically and culturally.”
The next phase of the competition will involve the public. Each of the three sites will host an open house Sept. 23, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., followed by an online vote for the favorite project at HistoricColumbus.com. The voting will run from Sept. 23 through Oct. 20. The grant winner will be announced at HCF’s annual meeting Oct. 24.
“We are so excited to help share their stories and their needs with the Columbus community,” Barker said. “We will also feature the stories and needs of the other nine applicants on our website to encourage the public to also learn about their projects and hopefully get involved.”
The Public Participation Grant is funded by the HCF’s capital campaign, “Save Me a Place,” which raised $6 million.
“Thanks to those donors,” Barker said, “Historic Columbus has been able to expand its Façade Loan Program, establish a new Rehabilitation Loan Program, complete the stabilization at City Mills and create Columbus’ only large grant program that’s specifically for bricks-and-mortar preservation projects and where the public can get involved.”
After the announcement, Barker told the Ledger-Enquirer that $100,000 is the limit for a request in the Public Participation Grant. The idea for the program came from the National Trust.
“I did steal it,” Barker said with a laugh.
The purpose, she said, is “to increase the community’s awareness of what historic preservation can do … and how historic preservation plays economically.”
Although the grant will be awarded to only the project with the most votes, Barker said the publicity this competition is giving the other applicants might motivate the HCF’s preservation committee and additional donors to support those requests at some level, even if it’s not the full amount.