Last week, the Georgia Trust for Historic Preservation released its 2021 list of 10 Places in Peril in the state. The Kiah House was one of ten selected across the state of Georgia.
Places in Peril is designed to raise awareness about Georgia’s significant historic, archaeological and cultural resources, including buildings, structures, districts, archaeological sites and cultural landscapes that are threatened by demolition, neglect, lack of maintenance, inappropriate development or insensitive public policy.
Through Places in Peril, the Trust will encourage owners and individuals, organizations and communities to employ proven preservation tools, financial resources and partnerships in order to reuse, reinvest and revitalize historic properties that are in peril. “This is the Trust’s sixteenth annual Places in Peril list,” said Mark C. McDonald, president and CEO of the Trust. “We hope the list will continue to bring preservation solutions to Georgia’s imperiled historic resources by highlighting ten representative sites.”
Built in 1913, the Kiah House in Savannah was the longtime residence of Dr. Calvin L. Kiah, a professor who led Savannah State College’s education department, and Virginia Kiah, a public-school teacher, artist, and curator. In their home, the couple established one of the first museums in Savannah started by African Americans in 1959. Notable visitors included Civil Rights activist Rosa Parks and artist Margaret Burroughs. The museum’s run came to an end with Virginia’s death in 2001.
Originally excluded as a contributing property from its neighborhood historic district due to its alterations, the Kiah House is a good example of how a property’s significance can be reconsidered over time. Unoccupied and in probate for nearly 20 years, the house is in an advanced state of deterioration, which has not gone unnoticed by the City. Due to the issues surrounding the probate, concerned citizens have been unable to apply for grants, conduct archaeological research, or perform any maintenance to the property. There is strong community support for the preservation and recognition of this resource, yet the house remains in danger of being lost.
Other sites on the list include: Ashby Street Theatre in Atlanta (Fulton County); Atlanta Eagle and Kodak Buildings in Atlanta (Fulton County); Blackshear City Jail in Blackshear (Pierce County); Cherry Grove Schoolhouse in Washington (Wilkes County); Cohutta African American Civic District in Cohutta (Whitfield County); Downtown Toomsboro (Wilkinson County); Old Monticello United Methodist Church in Monticello (Jasper County); Terrell County Courthouse in Dawson; and Vineville Avenue Corridor in Macon (Bibb County).
For additional background material and more information on each site, please go to www.georgiatrust.org/our-programs/ places-in-peril/.