An estimated 30 cubic feet of items going back to the minutes of the MHA’s first board meeting in 1938 were transferred at a signing ceremony Thursday evening at the KSU Center. MHA executive director Ray Buday said the transfer came about after the state Historic Preservation Division required MHA to create a history of the agency after plans were announced to demolish the Fort Hill Homes public housing development. But that was something MHA was already looking into.
“We’ve been talking about that for years,” Buday said. “We could get by on a 25-page history, but we’ve gone all out.”
Part of the move involves hiring historian Laura Drummond with Atlanta Preservation & Planning Services. Buday said she will go through the material and find highlights to put together as a 100-page history.
During his speech at Thursday’s signing ceremony, Buday told the 30 attendees of some of the ups and downs since MHA opened the segregated Clay Homes for whites and Fort Hill for black residents in 1941. They include opening the 1,000-unit Marietta Place project at the intersection of Fairground Street and South Marietta Parkway in a facility that was used to house Bell Bomber Plant workers during World War II.
He also told of attempts to build a black subdivision off Tower Road north of Kennestone Hospital in the early 1960s. But neighbors, seeking to prevent the subdivision from being built, chartered the city of Elizabeth in the area. But because the housing authority never went through with building the development, residents never activated the city charter.
Buday said the records show that MHA has always been committed to doing the right thing for the black community.
“Do not for a moment think that the history of the Marietta Housing Authority is dull stuff,” he said. “If you think we’re turning over a bunch of records that have to do with buildings and bridge structures and plans and what not, you would be mistaken. It is a rich, rich history with interesting events and occasions. When you read it, it’s nothing less than a testimony to how great our community is.”
The archives are being transferred at a time of transition for MHA, with it going from housing projects to providing vouchers to low-income residents that guarantee they will pay no more than one-third of his or her monthly income for rent.
The archives, which include plans and old newspaper articles, will be stored at the Sturgis Library on the KSU campus, said Dr. Tamara Livingston, the school’s associate director of museums, archives and rare books. Among the other organizations to have records stored with KSU are the Cobb NAACP and the Cobb County Medical Society Alliance, a group of physicians’ wives who helped raise money to buy medical equipment.
“It’s unusual for an archives to have a collection of a housing authority,” she said. “This is a piece of history.”
She expects the archives to be placed in the library as KSU processes them, with some expected to be available to the public by the start of the year. While the archives will now be more easily available to the public than they are at MHA’s offices on Cole Street, Livingston said there are no plans to make the records available online.
Marietta City Councilman Philip Goldstein said more organizations should do what MHA is doing with its records.
“It’s encouraging that they’re preserved, available and accessible,” he said. “There’s been very limited access, they’re not cataloged. It’s great that they’ll be easily available to anybody who wants to look at them.”
Donald Bates, 65, lived at Fort Hill until he was 8. He said many of his fellow residents were able to move on from the projects to have successful careers. He was on hand Thursday to see the signing ceremony.
“This is something I’ll be interested in because I’ve always wanted to know, how did they select the sites?” the recent retiree from Kroger and Procter & Gamble said.