During its 51st annual meeting Wednesday evening, the Historic Columbus Foundation announced the winner of its inaugural Public Participation Grant, culminating the month-long online voting with a surprise additional announcement for a total investment of $160,000 to help preserve three significant properties.
Out of the 10,268 votes cast at HistoricColumbus.com from Sept. 23 through Oct. 20, the Springer Opera House finished first with 5,742 to receive the $100,000 grand prize in the competition with two other finalists, the Liberty Theatre and the Wynn House, HCF executive director Elizabeth Barker told the crowd in Blanchard Hall at the Columbus Bank and Trust main branch of Synovus.
“But we’re not done yet,” Barker said. “Because all three have such dire roof and structural needs, the committee strongly felt the remaining two finalists should also receive some portion of their requested funding. Historic Columbus is in the business of saving places, and there are immediate bricks and mortar needs for two very significant and historic buildings.”
For receiving the second-most votes, the Wynn House won $40,000, which will fund the restoration of the cupola and the roof replacement. For finishing third, the Liberty Theatre won $20,000, which will fully fund the roof repair and replacement work on the main historic theatre.
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“We are thrilled to be able to provide these needed funds to help save these important places in our community,” Barker said.
HCF announced the finalists in July, chosen among 12 applicants.
The Springer Opera House (c. 1871), designated as the State Theatre of Georgia, requested $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, requested $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, requested $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.
The finalists held open houses and encouraged folks to vote for their projects.
“It has been wonderful to constantly see over the past month these three organizations on Facebook, Instagram and on billboards talking about the grant, their projects, and Historic Columbus,” Barker said.
Will Burgin, who served as HCF’s the past two years, until Jack Jenkins began his term at the meeting, explained the motivation behind establishing the Public Participation Grant.
“Without a roof,” he said, “you don’t have a preserved building.”
But it’s tough to raise endowments for such projects, Burgin added, because nobody wants their name on a plaque stuck to a roof. Plus, no community sinking fund is available, he noted. So the Public Participation Grant enables these “cultural icons” to use less of their money for upkeep and more of it for programs, Burgin said.
Following the ceremony, Paul Pierce, the Springer’s producing artistic director, told the Ledger-Enquirer that receiving the grant is a blessing.
“It’s been almost 20 years since the Springer has had a roof put on,” he said. “... As time goes by, wind, rain and wind-driven rain is trying to get into the building. And in the past year, year and a half, that rain has succeeded. ... This historic preservation grant will allow us to seal the Springer and protect the community’s investment at least for another 20 years.”
Pierce added, “We’re so grateful to the public for recognizing the need.”
Darlene Hughes Kittrell, executive director of the Wynn House, told the Ledger-Enquirer she got “chills” when Barker announced the other finalists also would receive money for their projects.
“It’s a big start on the project that we need to do because the roof is so important,” she said.
Kittrell also appreciates the support from the community.
“That was pretty phenomenal to get such public input in the voting,” she said. “The great thing about this is now public awareness of historic prevention is more pervasive.”
No representative of the Liberty Theatre was available for comment.
Sarah Turner Butler Heritage Award
The Sarah Turner Butler Heritage Award is HCF’s most prestigious honor, presented annually since 1984 to an individual or organization for outstanding contributions to historic preservation in Columbus and the region.
The 2017 recipient, Sally Hatcher, “has made outstanding contributions within our community to protect and preserve some of our most treasured places in Columbus,” Jenkins said. “Whether behind the scenes or actively working hands-on for a project, her spirit of service is not only strong, but also ingrained from a long family tradition of giving back to our city.
Hatcher helped restore the Rankin House, given to HCF in 1968 as the foundation’s first joint effort.
“She and her mother, one of our organization’s early Honored Ladies, actively maintained the house and grounds for decades,” Jenkins said. “And thanks to Sally, the house continues to receive proper updates and expert guidance on how the grounds should be maintained.”
Hatcher created and led HCF fundraising events, such as the 40th anniversary gala, served on the board of directors and continues to advise as a member of the board of trustees.
Her service as a member of the board of trustees for the Mildred Miller Fort Foundation has enabled her to provide funding for capital projects and programs for numerous groups in need. She also is involved in the Columbus Botanical Gardens, the Tea Olive Garden Club, the Sprig and Dig Garden Club, the Junior League of Columbus, the Colonial Dames, the St. Francis Auxiliary, Profit Sharers Investment Club, the Sherwood C. Lindsay Cemetery and First Presbyterian Church.
She “exhibits great passion for preservation, for her family and for her community,” Jenkins said. “She is an inspiration to us all, and undoubtedly, this organization would not be nearly as strong today without her commitment and dedication.”
After accepting the award, Hatcher said, “I can’t tell you how much this organization means to me.”
The foundation also announced the following 2017 awards for preservation:
50th anniversary events and programs
Virginia Peebles and Janice Biggers for co-chairing the 50th anniversary celebration.
Ed Sprouse for chairing the Save Me A Place Capital Campaign.
Sarah Walden for chairing the 50th anniversary program committee.
Garry Pound for his artwork to celebrate the 50th anniversary,
Thomas Bowden III for chairing the ninth annual River Raffle.
Dexter Jordan and Aminta Flowers for chairing the 50th anniversary golden jubilee.
Special events and volunteers
Elizabeth Cliatt for chairing the 10th annual River Raffle.
Leah Braxton and Sam Wellborn III for their leadership on the Second Avenue Beautification Committee.
Virginia Causey for her advocacy efforts to save and revitalize the South Commons.
Museum exhibits and special projects
The Carson McCullers Center for Writers and Musicians for the celebration of McCullers’ 100th birthday.
The Columbus Museum for four exhibits celebrating our region – “From Flying Aces to Army Boots: World War I and the Chattahoochee Valley”; “Close Up: Cinema along the River”; “Common Grounds”; and “Civic Spirit.”
Kristy Milam for the renovation of 38 29th St. and investment in City Village.
Columbus Historic District
Sherry Jenkins and Val Webb for the construction and compatible design of their new home, 625 Broadway.
Cathy and Chuck Williams for the infill construction of their new home, 731 First Ave.
High Uptown Historic District
Dina Woodruff for the restoration of The Illges House, 1428 Second Ave.
Edgar Chancellor III for the design of a new commercial building in Uptown, 15 11th St.
First Presbyterian Church for the restoration of the church’s stained glass windows.
Wildwood Circle and Hillcrest Historic District
Michael Braxton for the rehabilitation of 1544 Dixon Drive.
Wynn’s Hill and Overlook Historic District
Nancy Burgin for the renovation and adaptive reuse of her family home, the Cliff M. Averett House.