4 Middle Georgia sites on latest Places In Peril list

Four Middle Georgia historic properties made the Georgia Trust For Historic Preservation’s 10 Places In Peril list released Wednesday.

The building that was once the home to the Capricorn Records recording studio on Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard is among the 10, as are the old Dodge County jail in Eastman, the Ritz Theatre in Thomaston and Central State Hospital in Milledgeville.

The list is designed to raise awareness across the state for properties deemed to have historic value but that have fallen into disrepair.

The trust wants to help communities find ways to preserve and restore them, said Mark C. McDonald, president and CEO of the Georgia Trust.

“The purpose of the list is to bring state and even national awareness to the plight of these sites,” he said. “These are priority sites we will be giving enhanced services to in the next year.”

The Capricorn studio building was taken over Tuesday by Atlantic Southern Bank, which owned the note on the property, after failing to find any other bidders after being put up for public auction on the steps of the Bibb County Courthouse.

Originally, there were plans to restore the building, which includes a functioning recording studio, and turn it into a mini-museum and cafe. The building is considered to be one of the key places in the birth of the Southern Rock musical genre, with groups such as The Allman Brothers Band, The Charlie Daniels Band and The Marshall Tucker Band all cutting albums there during the 1970s.

“It could be a good development that the bank owns it, because they are a motivated seller,” McDonald said. “We would certainly work with any interested buyer that came up with a rehabilitation plan for it.”

Central State Hospital was once the nation’s largest mental hospital and the second largest in the world. It opened in 1842 and still houses 1,000 patients there under the auspices of the Georgia Department of Human Resources, McDonald said.

“Of all the sites, this is probably the most challenging,” he said. “It’s so enormous and has so many historic buildings. The historic significance is so great that it had to be taken on.”

McDonald said the trust is working with the state and with officials from Georgia College & State University in Milledgeville to find ways to preserve the site.

In Eastman, the old Dodge County jail doesn’t require a large amount of funding, McDonald said, and the trust has been talking with officials there to come up with ways of rehabilitating the site and finding other purposes for the building such as a museum, offices or a community center.

The Ritz Theatre in Thomaston, which has an art deco facade and was built in 1927, still is in use, serving more than 24,000 people per year. But water damage is causing structural issues in the building.

Two other Middle Georgia sites — the downtown fire station in Hawkinsville and the Creek agency reserve archaeological site in Taylor County — just missed making the final cut, McDonald said.

To contact writer Phillip Ramati, call 744-4334.