By LYDIA BERGLAR
This month, a survey of historic sites in the northern portion of Dade County began. Residents within the designated area can anticipate visits from Cumberland Applied Research Associates (CARA) between now and May 2024.
On behalf of the Trenton-Dade County Historic Preservation Commission (HPC), the Dade County Board of Commissioners applied for and received a grant totaling $15,000 from the Georgia Department of Community Affairs Historic Preservation Division. The grant is a 60/40 split, meaning the county will cover the remaining $10,000 to pay for CARA’s work.
Donna Street (HPC chair) explained that to be a certified historic preservation agency that can receive state grants such as this one, groups must be connected to a local government body. She explained that our HPC began as an ad hoc committee to work on the historic courthouse renovation before becoming a local government body. She said, “We are a commission, just like the beer board and tax board.”
While many areas have separate city and county HPCs, Dade is unique in that the city and county are combined. Street said, “We knew our resources were very limited and that we would need to draw from both the city and the county.”
Completing surveys of historic resources in the county is the first step to getting grants for future projects. Street said, “They’re not going to fully fund us for anything big until we’ve completed this.”
The last time a historical survey was completed in Dade was 1975. Street explained that in the 1970s, there was a major push to preserve history in Georgia. In the 70s, state and federal grants funded projects like the Georgia Newspaper Project, which transferred newspapers to microfilm.
Dade County’s 1975 survey produced a list of about 100 historic properties along with black and white photographs and information about each property. This survey was a key resource for Liz Simmons as she worked to have the Judge Hale House in Rising Fawn added to the National Register of Historic Places.
Street reported that more than half of these pieces of history are now gone, saying, “The McBryar house, the Davis house–we’re losing all of it.”
Now, in the 2020s, Dade is once again receiving funds for historical surveys. The first grant was used to survey everything within the City of Trenton limits. This portion was completed in August 2020.
Street reported that the state awards about ten of these grants each year, and after Dade received $20,000 for the old courthouse roof and then the first survey grant, we waited several years to reapply, knowing we would not receive back-to-back grants.
The current survey will cover the north area of the county between I-59, I-24, the Tennessee state line, Lookout Creek, and the Trenton city limits.
Street noted that South Dade, Lookout Mountain, and Sand Mountain will need to be surveyed in the future, anticipating a total of ten years for the entire county to be surveyed, (The valley portion east of Lookout Creek will fall under Lookout Mountain, and the valley portion west of I-59 will fall under Sand Mountain.)
These surveys catalog homes, churches, schools, barns, Native American mounds, civil war sites, and other things that are 40 years old or more. (The state considers 50 years old as historic, but it will be over ten years before surveys happen again, so items are counted at 40 years and older.)
Street noted that items such as the spring house on the old Dave L. Brown farm on Highway 11 and the abandoned metal bridge off of Creek Road in Wildwood are counted.
CARA, the archeological contracting company that will be making the rounds, also completed the Trenton city survey. CARA will enter all information into Georgia’s Natural, Archaeological, and Historic Resources Geographical Information System (GNAHRGIS).
Street wants residents within the survey boundaries to know that between now and May, a CARA representative will be visiting properties to take photos of buildings. CARA will not call ahead, but their vehicles will be clearly marked.
With help from the tax assessor’s office, the HPC estimates that there are about 320 historic parcels to be cataloged.