Olde Town to receive historic designation

By: Domonique Benn
By: Domonique Benn

September 6, 2006

It's considered Augusta's first neighborhood.

The Olde Town district extends from Gordon Highway to East Boundary, from the river to Watkins Street.

Some people living there want guidelines in place to prevent knocking down hundreds of years of history.

Elizabeth Smith has called Olde Town Augusta home for three years.

It's an area full of rich history.

"All the old trees and the old buildings," she said.

Thelma Williams is a member of the Augusta Historic Preservation Commission. She and other members want to save what's left.

They are working to make the area an historic district.

"I know it has been there for more than 100 years," Williams told News 12. "We are not against demolishing. We are for preserving."

But now many of the homeowners want to knock down the homes that are eyesores.

"I think it would depend on how salvageable they are," Smith said.

The Historic Preservation Board says even houses that look dilapidated can be saved, and that's why a moratorium is in place to stop homeowners from knocking down these houses.

"You have homes that were built as far back as the 17 and 1800's," said Smith.

If the historic designation passes, homeowners may have to go through a commission to make any changes.

"Why not preserve an area that is so beautiful that you can't have these buildings back again?" Smith told News 12.

There are only two areas with historic designation: downtown and Summerville.

In 2005 Bethlehem's designation was rescinded after people in that area complained of not being able to keep up with the guidelines.

The historic designation for Olde Town should be in place no later than December. According to Augusta-Richmond County Historic Preservation Commission chairman Rob Moon, it will cover any new construction or major exterior renovations that involve a material change to the property.

Painting, basic maintenance, replacement of materials with like materials, and any interior renovations that do not impact the exterior of the property are not subject to the design review guidelines.

Moon also stressed that the guidelines will not force anyone to make changes or improvements to their homes. "There are a lot of people who think the government wants to tell them what they can and cannot do with their property," he said in a statement to News 12. "We want to dispel this idea and let people know that it will only affect major changes."

To see the current draft of the guidelines, click here.

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