ACHF Executive Director Tommy Valentine.
New Athens-Clarke Heritage Foundation Executive Director Tommy Valentine has plans to make the historic preservation group more inclusive by reaching out to minorities and young people.
On Mar. 22 from 5:30–7:30 p.m. at the T.R.R. Cobb House, the ACHF is hosting a kickoff party for the Athens chapter of Inherit Georgia, a partnership with the Georgia Trust for Historic Preservation and the Athens Historical Society aimed at the under-40 crowd. Then, the ACHF’s 50th annual preservation awards is June 3 at the Morton Theatre at downtown’s Hot Corner, the historical center of African-American culture and commerce in Athens. “It’s obviously a very exciting milestone for us,” Valentine said.
Following the Georgia Trust’s example, this year the ACHF is introducing a Places in Peril list and soliciting nominations for “landscapes, buildings, cemeteries—any place people think is endangered” by development or “demolition by neglect.” When asked for examples, Valentine mentioned the Maddox Center, a former American Legion and daycare facility off Magnolia Street that the ACHF is working with Greater Bethel AME Church to restore; Beech Haven, a 150-acre wooded retreat with an Arts and Crafts-style cabin off Atlanta Highway that ACC recently acquired and the ACHF has submitted as a SPLOST project; and St. James Cemetery, a largely forgotten African-American burial ground off Whitehead Road.
“What we’re excited about is nominations outside our scope,” Valentine said. “We think there are historical gems throughout the community that we’ll be able to identify through this process.”
Nominations can be submitted at achfonline.org, and the organization is also reaching out through avenues like neighborhood email lists and church newsletters, Valentine said.
The ACHF is also staffing up under Valentine, hiring Jody Graichen full-time to lead the Hands on Athens home-repair program (formerly a part-time position) and 16 UGA interns through the university’s experiential learning initiative. The nonprofit is currently working on a new local historic district to protect the western half of downtown Athens—in addition to the one created in 2006—and is eyeing other potential future districts, like the mill village along Whitehall Road and Valentine’s own neighborhood of Newtown, north of Pulaski Street, which has seen quite a bit of infill development in recent years.