CORDELE, Ga. -- The historic heritage of Georgia is being carefully respected as communities rebuild from the severe storms and tornadoes of March 1 and 2, said officials of the Georgia Emergency Management Agency (GEMA) and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security?s Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
Up to 10 public historic buildings and facilities suffered storm damage, according to Stephanie Madson, an environmental historic preservation adviser with FEMA. One of the buildings, Harmony Primitive Baptist Church in Richland, has a doubly stormy history. The church was built in 1839 because a tornado the previous year had destroyed its earlier structure. This year, after more than a century and a half as a focus of community activity, Harmony Primitive Baptist was destroyed again, with only two walls left standing.
In such cases of severe damage, Madson points out, it may be impossible to restore the historic integrity of an old landmark, but FEMA encourages efforts to preserve as much as possible. Working with the Georgia State Historical Preservation Office and building owners, FEMA seeks to create opportunities for preservation measures. These may include making architectural sketches of the damaged structure before the ruins are demolished for new construction. Or a few key parts of the building, such as an old mantelpiece, may be salvaged for a museum collection or for use in the restoration of some other vintage building.
Historic structures damaged by the recent storms also include the Rees Park School in Americus and the Richland Hotel. For a building to be considered of historic significance it must either be on the National Register of Historic Places or eligible for inclusion in the register by being more than fifty years old and meeting other qualifications.
"FEMA is here not only to rebuild but to create flexible solutions so our historic resources are preserved," said FEMA Federal Coordinating Officer Michael Bolch, in charge of federal disaster recovery operations in the affected area.
FEMA also helps make sure that historic buildings are prepared for future storms, while respecting the special features of such structures. For example, with proper guidance a building owner may select new windows that are both storm resistant and appropriate to the historical value of the site. By many routes, efforts are being made to cherish the treasures of the past.
FEMA coordinates the federal government?s role in preparing for, preventing, mitigating the effects of, responding to, and recovering from all domestic disasters, whether natural or man-made, including acts of terror.