A group of Maconites is asking the community to support efforts to preserve the Douglass House.
They gathered on the sidewalk in front of the house Thursday morning to make the plea.
“We declare a unified and diverse community coalition to preserve the Douglass House,” said George Muhammad, a community activist and co-organizer of the news conference, along with Historic Macon.
The Douglass house was built by one of Macon’s most prominent black businessmen, Charles Douglass, who founded and ran the Douglass Theatre among other enterprises. The house has been empty more than 40 years, sitting in the shadows of The Medical Center of Central Georgia on Pine Street.
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Lou Patel, of Warner Robins, purchased the house in June for $200,000 in order to expand the parking area for his planned Dunkin’ Donuts. Patel demolished the adjacent Tremont Temple Missionary Baptist Church, a historic black church that played a prominent role in the civil rights movement. Despite the historical significance and a listing on the National Register of Historic Places, the Macon-Bibb County Planning and Zoning Commission allowed the demolition to make room for the doughnut shop.
Muhammad and several other speakers at Thursday’s news conference cited that decision as a blow to historic preservation in Macon, particularly to the black community. Muhammad called on the community to come together to save the home.
“We need the support from the community,” he said. “We need the community to step up and respect our heritage.”
Ethiel Garlington, executive director of the Historic Macon Foundation, said the purpose of the news conference was to show the broad support against the proposed demolition.
“Especially given the experience with the Tremont Temple site ... we need to work to find a solution,” Garlington said.
Mercer University made an offer to purchase the house back from Patel for $200,000, to renovate it and put it back into service at it current location, said Larry Brumley, senior vice president and chief of staff at the University. That offer was rejected.
Patel wants the house to be moved, said real estate broker Jim Rollins, but sought a demolition permit for the home only after delays to the proposed timeline on the move. On Monday, Patel and Rollins asked the planning and zoning commission for a deferral on voting on the demolition application, to allow more time to negotiate with Mercer University, which presented the offer last week that Patel rejected. So far, the parties have not come back to negotiations, Rollins said.
If they are not able to come to agreement, the demolition request will come up in planning and zoning.
Shawn Stafford, a contractor, was at the news conference to attest to the brick home’s solid construction and condition. Stafford also pledged financial and in-kind support from his construction company to help with its restoration.
“It just makes no sense to tear down a house in this condition,” he said.
To contact writer Mark Vanderhoek, call 744-4225.