The Atlanta Preservation Center is turning 40 in November and has no plans to slow down as it continues to fight to defend the city’s historic structures.
“One of the purposes of the center is to raise conscientiousness about preservation in Atlanta because we don’t really have a preservation culture here in hearts and minds, and I think we’ve done that. We have over 1,000 members,” said Boyd Coons, the center’s executive director.
Coons, who has worked at the center for 20 years, said one of its most important endeavors, prior to his arrival, was to partner with the Atlanta History Center and the Atlanta Urban Design Commission to found Easements Atlanta in 1984. It allows property owners to donate a historic preservation easement to permanently protect historic structures.
“That’s the highest degree of protection a building can enjoy in the city because it’s a federal program,” Coons said. “We restored the Glenn Hotel, Healey Building and Medical Arts Building (in downtown Atlanta) and Spotswood Hall (in Buckhead).
He said the center has separately also saved the Peters House and the Sidney Lanier Monument at Piedmont Park, both in Midtown, and stopped the demolition of the block of the Fairlie-Poplar Historic District downtown to build a new federal courthouse.
The center hosted two private events in October to celebrate its anniversary. At one of those parties, taking place at the center’s office at the 1856 Grant Mansion in the Grant Park Historic District, the organization handed out its annual Gibson Cornwell Awards to residents for their preservation efforts.
Nov. 4, the National Society of The Colonial Dames of America in the State of Georgia will dedicate a plaque to the center at its office.
Separately from the anniversary events, each March the center hosts Phoenix Flies, a series of tours of the city’s historic sites that further raises awareness of its mission. It also hosts outdoor guided walking tours in March through November.
Buckhead resident Shepard Ansley, who joined the center in the early ’80s, is a longtime board member.
“I joined it because I liked their approach to preservation in trying to preserve the historically significant homes and buildings in Atlanta from being torn down. … We do take a stand when the historically significant building is being threatened,” he said, adding he credited much of the organization’s success to Coons. “… When a building is threatened, he goes to work on saving it. … Frankly, I don’t think we’d still be here if it wasn’t for Boyd Coons.”
Ansley and Coons each reflected on what the center’s anniversary means to them.
“It means there’s a viability for preservation and a need for our organization and we have a purpose for the future,” Coons said.
Said Ansley, “It means the center has worked hard to stay in place this long and has served an important function in preserving historically significant buildings and homes in Atlanta.”
For more information, visit www.preserveatlanta.com.