The new director of the Buckhead Heritage Society, an organization that advocates for local history, said he plans to ramp up the organization’s awareness of endangered buildings.
Richard Waterhouse, a former Massachusetts museum director and Georgia Public Broadcasting fundraiser, has been hired to fill the executive director position, which was left vacant when former director Carmie McDonald resigned last year. He was introduced to the public at the organization’s holiday fundraiser last month.
“What is key to our mission is to educate people on historic properties that make Buckhead what it is today,” Waterhouse said.
Waterhouse said he is planning to put together a “preservation task force” that can more closely watch for endangered historic properties. The organization sometimes has been in the dark when word comes that historic properties could be altered or demolished.
“We are creating a preservation task force so we can let Buckhead know of any sites that may be in danger,” he said.
The task force would develop a plan for action when someone alerts them to an endangered property, Waterhouse said, using the example of the former National Library Bindery and Oxford, Too bookstore building, which was named on the Georgia Trust for Historic Preservation’s endangered list last year.
“This way when someone comes to us with concerns about the book bindery, for example, we have a plan for that,” he said.
Waterhouse doesn’t know yet who could be named to this task force, and said the organization needs to raise enough money to fund it first.
Waterhouse also plans to put together a comprehensive list of all the buildings designed by Philip Trammell Shutze, the designer of the Atlanta History Center’s Swan House and other prominent local buildings. Several Shutze mansions have been significantly renovated or demolished in recent years, and a problem is the number or location of the buildings is not known.
Both previous directors of the Buckhead Heritage Society have started to make a list, but Waterhouse hopes to finally finish it, he said.
Waterhouse also plans to finish implementing the Master Interpretative Plan, which was spearheaded by the society in 2014. The plan, created with input from organizations such as Livable Buckhead, the Atlanta History Center, the Atlanta Urban Design Commission and the city Department of Parks and Recreation. It recommended several types of public art, including historic billboards and “ghostlike” human-scale figures that represent people who lived in Atlanta decades ago.
A sign installed in Charlie Loudermilk Park, which displays a 1943 photograph of the nearby Buckhead Theatre aligned to overlap the view of today’s building, was the first project completed from the plan.
The organization hopes to finish the next five projects at the rate of one every two years, he said. The future sites are Lenox Square, Blue Heron Nature Preserve, Chastain Park, Atlanta Memorial Park and the Department of Watershed Management’s site at the Chattahoochee River and Peachtree Creek, which was the former site of Fort Peachtree.
Waterhouse also hopes to implement more community engagement with the society. He plans to visit all 28 neighborhood organizations in Buckhead and offer them lectures on preservation.
The society is planning to partner with the Lovett School on a Native American history program exploring the Buckhead roots and history of the Cherokee and Creek Indians, Waterhouse said.
For more information, see buckheadheritage.com.