Thursday, September 20, 2018

Great Locomotive Chase depot in NW Ga. gets one bidder, who says 'glory days' will return with new food, bar areas after overhaul

(Courtesy of Georgia Trust for Historic Preservation)

The sole bidder for a Dalton, Ga., building that once served as a Civil War-era railroad depot said it’s possible that a portion could be used for a small museum.

Locally based Barrett Properties has offered $300,000 and plans to have the depot, built in 1852, divided into restaurant and bar space, vice president Barry Slaymaker Jr. told the Picket in an email.

The city of Dalton, which contracted with the Georgia Trust for Historic Preservation to market the old Western & Atlantic depot downtown, put the property up for sale for $500,000.

The city required bidders to submit a written preservation plan and abide by a signed rehabilitation agreement. The Trust's primary goal is seeing that historic features in the building are saved.

The Dalton Depot -- which needs extensive remediation and upgrades inside -- had its moment of fame on April 12, 1862, when Northern raiders who had commandeered the locomotive General in Big Shanty, above Atlanta, chugged toward Chattanooga, Tenn., intent on destroying parts of the railroad.

The pursuing locomotive Texas picked up a telegraph operator who rushed to the Dalton depot and wired Confederate troops ahead in Chattanooga. Although not all his message got through, Edward Henderson’s alarm sent troops toward the track. The Andrews Raiders were captured near Ringgold when the General ran out of steam. They had accomplished little.

The Daily Citizen newspaper earlier this week first reported on Barrett Properties’ bid. The Trust is reviewing the bid, officials said. Ben Sutton, historic properties coordinator for the group, would not comment further to the Picket.

(Courtesy of Georgia Trust for Historic Preservation)

City Administrator Jason Parker told the Picket he plans to present the proposal to the mayor and council at an Oct. 1 meeting. “The City Council reserves the right to accept or reject bids, but if this bid and proposal are accepted at that meeting, the city will move as quickly as possible to close on the property with the bidder,” Parker said in an email.

"While it’s still under review, the preservation and rehabilitation plan proposed by Barrett Properties for the Dalton Depot property appears to be sound, and would ultimately lead to continued preservation of this historic gem,” said Parker. The plan is for two tenants to be inside the property.

The 12,100-square-foot brick building was “a pretty high-style example of Georgia depot architecture” and has Greek Revival features, Sutton previously said. It features stone lintels, brick pilasters and door entablatures. The depot is the oldest commercial building in the city and once provided passenger and freight service.

The trust marketed the building through its revolving fund, which it says provides alternatives to demolition or neglect of a historically important property. Sutton says the building, which is owned by the city, is pretty intact. It last served as a tavern, which closed in late 2015.

The depot’s southern end retains features interior ticket windows and other rail service features. Slaymaker said that location, which used to hold the waiting room, would be ideal for a museum.

The Trust hopes a buyer donates a conservation easement so that the group can ensure historical features are protected and conduct an annual inspection. Slaymaker did not comment on whether Barrett Properties would consider doing so.

The developers say they plan to bring the depot back to its “glory days.” They told the Daily Citizen the city is undergoing a renaissance downtown that will see additional housing, hotel and entertainment options.

“We will be working closely with the Georgia Trust, State of Georgia HPD (Historic Preservation Division) and the Northwest Georgia Regional Commission to ensure that we take all of the proper steps to rehabilitate to Department of the Interior standards,” Slaymaker told the Picket.

Thursday, September 13, 2018

The Civil War and African-Americans: Kennesaw Mountain battlefield's action since focus groups urged park 'to tell our story'


In February 2011, the Picket reported and wrote about an initiative by Kennesaw Mountain National Battlefield Park near Atlanta. It wanted to expand its story, particularly about people of color. The park, in a cooperative agreement with the Center for the Study of the Civil War Era at Kennesaw State University, produced a report on African-American attitudes toward the Civil War.

Entitled, “The War of Jubilee: Tell Our Story and We will Come,” the effort stemmed from focus groups with nearly 60 members of organizations that had primarily African-American membership. It was shared with other national parks. Some participants wanted more exhibits and programs on slavery, Reconstruction and black troops who aided the Federal war effort.

We wondered whether anything resulted from the initiative and made an inquiry this summer. Below are actions the park said it has completed to address some of the recommendations made from the focus groups. With the exception of a few revisions, the material is presented as written by the park staff.

-- A new and updated park film was completed in September 2013. The focus was to be more inclusive and highlight roles of African-Americans (specifically, Emma Stephenson, a former enslaved person who served as a nurse for the Union army, and Austin Gilmore, a former enslaved person, who enlisted in that army, served as a stretcher bearer and was mortally wounded while rescuing a soldier at the Battle of Kennesaw Mountain).

Monemia Johnson panel (click to enlarge; courtesy of NPS)

An exhibit at the park museum tells the sad story of Monemia Johnson (above), a freed black in nearby Marietta, Ga. Yankee cavalrymen in November 1864 sack her restaurant and home, ostensibly for supplies. Both sites are burned in a fire set by the Federals when they evacuated Marietta. She learned later her husband, James, had died in Nashville. Johnson eventually receives $246 in damages, well below what she sought.

-- Members of a USCT group gave formal programming on two occasions, before and after the CW150th. For various reasons, these groups have not returned; finding a somewhat "local" group was very challenging; low participation on their part; and the cost involved for their programs). 

-- The park hosted a social media art exhibit which highlighted various users in the Georgia national parks for the "Find Your Park' campaign.

-- The park hired an African-American intern in the fall of 2017 to specifically conduct oral interviews of African-Americans within the community. He started first with slave narratives (which was a recommendation from the focus group) for background information before talking with community members.   

Lorenzo Bright conducted oral interviews with local African-Americans within the community. We put a call-out to the community to gather historic materials and stories through a press release and via our website and the park's Facebook page, but had no response. The intern’s work is highlighted on the park website and can be found here.

The intern and a park ranger worked together to create a facilitated dialogue program for high school students as a way to discuss slavery. This is developed, but has not been presented as of yet.

Robin Robinson
-- Another intern was hired to conduct an oral history project focusing on veterans. The focus was to include various minorities (women and African-Americans) in the sharing of their stories. Among those interviewed was former Navy Petty Officer Robin Robinson. Those interviews can be heard  here. 

-- Park staff worked with a local elementary school to develop a play to highlight ALL roles during the Civil War (this included USCT, slaves, women, and children).  This play was performed at the park in the spring of 2018, and we anticipate it being performed again.

-- Park staff has worked with the NPS Harpers Ferry Center to develop new waysides, one of which will highlight stretcher bearers, some of whom were African-American. These should all be complete and installed throughout the park by December 31, 2018. Waysides are interpretive signs (typically with illustrations or photos, and text).

-- Park staff and a summer teacher ranger teacher have recently developed new curriculum-based programming to discuss slavery as a cause of the Civil War. This will be available this school year 2018/2019. Marjorie Thomas, chief of interpretation at Kennesaw Mountain, said the program has been developed but not yet presented to any groups.

-- During the park’s CW150th, the NPS Kennesaw Mountain NBP sesquicentennial magazine entitled The Sentinel, showcased stories, researched and written by park staff, about African-Americans in the local communities. Additionally, park staff led the "150 Stories for 150 Years of Change" as a project to highlight (and curate) stories that recounted social change within the society. These stories were posted on the park's Facebook page.

Thursday, September 6, 2018

Cemetery appearance: Neat or natural?

A group and the city of Muskego, Wisc., remain at odds over the upkeep of a city-run cemetery where three Civil War veterans are buried among 70 graves. The local Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War wants the plot kept neat and trimmed. But the city said the patch is part of a prairie and should retain its natural appearance. The dispute is the subject of a lawsuit. • Article

Friday, August 31, 2018

Restored coat back on display at school

What a long, strange trip it's been for Gloucester High School's once decaying Civil War era-coat. Now restored to its tailored, but still historically tattered Confederate gray self, it hangs handsomely ensconced in a museum-quality 3-D casing in a new place of honor in the Massachusetts school's atrium. The coat, which for decades had been displayed in a glass trophy case in the halls of the high school, was once owned by Albert W. Bacheler, a celebrated Civil War veteran who served as the school’s principal from 1883 to 1913. • Article

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

For $500K, and agreeing to protect historic features, a Civil War-era depot made famous by Great Locomotive Chase can be yours

The depot is the oldest commercial building in Dalton
Transaction window (Georgia Trust for Historic Prerservation)

A northwest Georgia city hopes a reinvigorated downtown, economic incentives and potential tax breaks will entice bids for a railroad depot that played a part in the Civil War’s “Great Locomotive Chase.”

Dalton officials have contracted with the Georgia Trust for Historic Preservation to market the old Western & Atlantic depot at 110 Depot St. The structure, built in 1852, has a suggested price of $500,000.

The Dalton Depot -- which needs extensive work inside -- had its moment of fame on April 12, 1862, when Northern raiders who had commandeered the locomotive General in Big Shanty, above Atlanta, were chugging toward Chattanooga, Tenn., intent on destroying parts of the railroad.

The pursuing locomotive Texas picked up a 17-year-old telegraph operator who rushed to the Dalton depot and wired Confederate troops ahead in Chattanooga. Although not all his message got through, Edward Henderson’s alarm sent troops toward the track. The Andrews Raiders were captured near Ringgold when the General ran out of steam. They had accomplished little.

Ben Sutton, historic properties coordinator for the trust, told the Picket, “There are plenty of preservation-minded property owners that recognize the intrinsic value of buildings like this.”

The 12,100-square-foot brick building was “a pretty high-style example of Georgia depot architecture” and has Greek Revival features. It features stone lintels, brick pilasters and door entablatures.

The depot is the oldest commercial building in the city and once provided passenger and freight service.

The trust is marketing the building through its revolving fund, which it says provides alternatives to demolition or neglect of a historically important property. The space could be divided for office, commercial or restaurant use, including a coffee house or microbrewery.

Building needs a lot of TLC

(Photos courtesy of Georgia Trust for Historic Preservation)

The depot has had some hard times since its heyday. A 1977 nomination form for the National Register of Historic Places (which was awarded) said Dalton citizens were aware of its value but “concerned about the deterioration of the building.” At that time, it was being leased to a railroad.

According to the nomination form, “the depot might have been partially destroyed when Union troops entered Dalton and set fire to several buildings in 1862. It appears that the essential structure of the depot was not damaged and the restoration was confined to roof and interior repair. Since the ornamental brackets are stylistically later than the date of the rest of the building, it is likely that they replaced others lost in the destruction.”

The city-owned building later housed a tavern for about 25 years, but city officials closed the building in late 2015, citing conditions that “posed potential health hazards to the public,” including mold, according to the Daily Citizen-News newspaper.

A freight scale remains in area that once was a restaurant

Dalton put the building up for bid in 2017, but got no offers. According to the newspaper, a potential investor earlier this year said renovation could cost between $600,000 and $1 million.

Sutton says the building is pretty intact and its southern end retains features interior ticket windows and the depot features an old freight scale.

“There is deferred maintenance.” All systems, including sprinklers and HVAC, need upgrading. “There are plenty of worse-off buildings people will invest in,” Sutton said.

Depot office on south end of the building (Ga. Trust)

The city is requiring bidders to submit a written preservation plan and abide by a signed rehabilitation agreement. “They want to make sure its history is understood, appreciated and protected,” said Sutton. “Based on that (plan) we can tell if they are going to be treating the building appropriately.”

Trust wants to administer easement

The trust hopes a buyer donates a conservation easement so that the group can ensure historical features are protected and conduct an annual inspection.

Donation of an easement has tax advantages, said Sutton, and a buyer can be eligible for federal and state income tax credits through a certified rehabilitation of a National Register property.

View from the tracks in the 1970s (National Park Service)

A potential investor earlier this year was concerned about the easement, according to the Daily Citizen-News, but changes were made so that the trust, rather than city officials, would manage the easement terms.

John Davis, a member of the board of the Downtown Dalton Development Authority, told the newspaper: "Getting people downtown is important, and the depot is very much a part of downtown. It was a very thriving part of downtown for a long time, and we'd love to see it get back to that."

View of the west facade (Georgia Trust for Historic Preservation)

A property tour for potential buyers is set for Sept. 6. Bids will be opened on Sept. 17. The city reserves the right not to accept any bid, officials said.

Until then, Sutton says, the trust hopes a potential buyer thinks “pretty creatively about the space.”

(Photos: Georgia Trust for Historic Preservation)