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East Point Citizens form Alliance to Save City's Historic Buildings Slated for Demolition | Community Spirit

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East Point Citizens form Alliance to Save City's Historic Buildings Slated for Demolition

East Point -  Erik Friedly has submitted this article to "Where U Live" about East Point citizens uniting to try to stop the demolition of historic buildings in the City of East Point.  The following letter is the complete statement that he released.

The East Point Preservation Alliance (EPPA) has been formed by a group of East Point citizens “for the purpose of preserving the historical architecture and character of downtown East Point, GA, including the City Hall, Auditorium and Library,” and the group has already submitted a petition to the City Council requesting an independent assessment of all three structures to determine their current state and what is needed to fully rehabilitate and restore them.  “We believe that the charming, small-town character of this City should be preserved and celebrated,” says Tina Dharman, one of the citizens responsible for organizing EPPA. “Rather than tearing down these wonderful symbols of our shared history or allowing them to fall into further disrepair, we should cherish them as valuable community assets and anchors for our City center.”

Race Against Time—and Impending Demolition

EPPA’s founders felt that the time was now to take action on this critical issue as the City of East Point has in recent months issued a Request for Proposals (RFP) for “a Multi-Purpose Government Complex” which calls for the tearing down of several—if not all—of the existing buildings.  One possible approach described in the RFP describes the construction of a large, new City Hall complex built around the existing Auditorium while the other calls for the demolition of all three historic buildings to make way for the proposed Government Complex.

 

EPPA does not necessarily oppose the construction of additional office space for City staff and facilities but believes that any such new structure could easily be built adjacent to the existing buildings, giving East Point the best of both worlds.

EPPA had requested permission to conduct tours of the buildings—all of which were built with public funds from 1931-1939—for citizens to witness first-hand the historic flavor and beauty of these structures as well as the extent of the damage they have suffered to date.  However, upon receipt of this request for access, the City announced it was condemning the Auditorium and forbidding any public entry “due to various serious health and safety issues.”  Signage announcing the condemnation of the Auditorium was promptly posted on the building this week.

“We are extremely disappointed by the City’s actions regarding the Auditorium,” says Laura Borders, longtime East Point resident and co-founder of her neighborhood association. “The buildings were in use as recently as three years ago and public tours were conducted in 2009. What changed so suddenly to warrant this action?”

Buildings Date to 1930s, Bear Witness to FDR’s New Deal

East Point’s City Hall, which is still in use as offices for City staff and the Mayor, is among the City’s most distinct structures.  With its white-columned porch and clock tower, City Hall dates to 1931 and reflects a mix of the antebellum and Federal Revival styles popular at the time.  It houses the old Council Chambers where countless public meetings were held, shaping the destiny of East Point. 

Immediately behind City Hall is the City Auditorium, built at the same time and witness to decades of City gatherings, musical performances, theatrical productions, high school graduations and other precious moments in the life of the City.  The Auditorium had been used to hold City Council meetings until very recently when those were moved to a much smaller space at the Jefferson Station complex, where citizens are routinely turned away due to over-crowding in the meeting space.  The building’s architectural style matches that of City Hall and features Palladian windows, decorative swags and medallions along the walls, and a large stage suitable for a variety of uses.  Most of the damage the Auditorium has suffered has been the result of an unrepaired roof, which the City has failed to cover even with a tarp.

Just behind the Auditorium and facing Victory Park (dedicated to East Point citizens who have given their lives in service to the country) is the old City Library, closed for many years and now used simply for storage.  The Federal Revival-style structure bears a brass plaque attesting to its construction as part of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Federal Emergency Administration of Public Works (FEAPW) in 1939. (FEAPW—a core element of FDR’s New Deal which put countless Americans back to work following the Great Depression—was renamed the Public Works Administration shortly after the Library’s construction in 1939.)  Almost all of the Library’s original features remain intact, including the dark wood bookcases, shelving, and lovely Adam’s style fireplace mantels.  Another prominent feature of the building are the numerous Art Deco-style lighting fixtures which grace the buildings common rooms.

“These structures will require money to restore and reopen, and we know that,” says Natalie Topeka, downtown East Point business owner and resident. “But they are well worth saving as they hold an intangible value that transcends cost issues.  You can’t easily put a price on a community’s history—and that’s what we are fighting to preserve here.”

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