Day zero: brown is the new green

Daulton House, Decatur, Ga., 2011. Photo by author originally published by Patch.

Daulton House, Decatur, Ga., 2011. Photo by author originally published by Patch.

Over the past few years Decatur, Ga., builder Clay Chapman has erected a solid reputation as a designer and builder of baronial brick manses. One of his 2011 projects was built in Decatur’s MAK Historic District. It drew fire from the city’s historic preservation commission and local residents for being out of scale and character with the more modest neighboring historic homes built a century earlier. Continue reading

Georgia sunshine: the semantics of public records


Georgia court records. Are they open if they are in plain view? Photo by author.

Georgia’s government regularly gets failing grades for transparency when it comes to making records available to the press, researchers, and the general public. A recent survey of states by the Center for Public Integrity flunked Georgia with a grade of 46% on two questions: 1) Do citizens have a legal right of access to information?; and, 2) Is the right of access to information effective?

Under Georgia law, the governor and legislative branches are exempt from the state’s Open Records Act (O.C.G.A. §50-18-70). The judicial branch, including county superior courts, operates under a different set of rules for making court records — case files, land records, etc. — available to the public. Continue reading

New Candler Park historical marker


Early Edgewood-Candler Park BiRacial History Project marker screen capture.

A small group of Candler Park volunteers installed a new historical marker at the site where the first Antioch East Baptist Church stood between 1877 and 1916. The installation took place Saturday Nov. 9, 2013. Residents used a posthole digger to set the new panel, which features text and historical images, near a commemorative granite bench which was installed in 2011.

The marker is part of an ambitious effort to document early African American history in Atlanta’s Candler Park neighborhood. Planning for the marker began three years ago and it is the fourth historical marker placed in the neighborhood stemming from Candler Park’s BiRacial History Project founder Edith Kelman’s research.

New historical marker and commemorative bench. Photo by Edith Kelman.

New historical marker and commemorative bench. Photo by Edith Kelman.

Funding for the marker came from the 420 Oakdale Group. Kelman worked with community volunteers and Atlanta design firm Goolrick Interpretive Group to develop it. Volunteers Randy Pimsler and Danny Feig-Sandoval excavated the postholes for the marker. Onlookers include 420 Oakdale Group members Kelly Jordan, Don Bender, and Roger Bakeman.

This video slideshow captures the installation and a more complete account will appear in a future Candler Park Neighborhood Organization newsletter.

© 2013 D.S. Rotenstein



Post-Apartheid South Africa v. Decatur, Ga.: race, class, and capital

Gentrification is global. Decatur, Ga., resident Ted Baumann compares and contrasts gentrification and the politics of race and class in his adopted Georgia city and in a post-Apartheid South African suburb in a new two-part National Council on Public History post. From the History@Work post, “Race, politics, and property: Two cases of gentrification”:

My experience in Decatur has been different – especially the absence of any organised resistance in the low-income community to domination by gentrifiers and real estate interests – but remains eerily similar in some ways.  Many of those who drove the exclusionary MID agenda in Muizenberg considered themselves socially and politically progressive, just as many Decatur gentrifiers do, and reacted with anger at suggestions of racism.  As in Decatur, vicious personal attacks and slander were directed at me and other “treasonous” property owners who sided with the refugee/renter population.  And as in Decatur, it was largely impossible to raise issues of equity and social justice with people who reduce all social relationships to impersonal market transactions, regardless of their effects. Continue reading

Decatur, Ga., protects trees, not people

Last night the Decatur, Ga., City Commission unanimously voted to enact a 90-day moratorium on tree cutting and then voted to defeat a temporary moratorium on the demolition of single family homes. The city will protect trees and not people. The three commissioners who voted against the teardown moratorium abrogated their responsibilities to the city’s most vulnerable citizens. Continue reading

Third Country: refugee resettlement in Clarkston, Ga.

Last night I attended a discussion of refugee resettlement efforts in the Atlanta metropolitan area. The Horizon Theatre Company hosted the session, which was tied to the first run performance of Atlanta playwright Suehyla El-Attar’s Third Country.

Continue reading

Value engineering history (updated)

I’ll make another comment about value engineering. It’s not just the numbers, but it is what we’ll be doing as far as memorializing a very important piece of history in the city of Decatur. And while there are opportunities for cultural gatherings and so forth, this will be a very specific one that has a very specific history and is someplace that needs to be noted as to what the Bottoms and the segregation of the City of Decatur and how far we’ve come. So thank you for your care in maintaining that piece throughout this project. – Decatur City Commissioner Kecia Cunningham.

The video is adapted from the March 18, 2013, Decatur City Commission meeting. For background information about the demolition of the Beacon property, read Separate and unequal: Preserving Jim Crow.

Continue reading

Decatur, Ga., proposes single-family home teardown moratorium (updated)

Street sign posted on Ansley Street advertising pre-teardown garage sale. Photo by author, March 3, 2012.

Street sign posted on Ansley Street advertising pre-teardown garage sale. Photo by author, March 3, 2012.

Decatur, Ga., City Manager Peggy Merriss released a memo today proposing that the Decatur City Commission consider establishing a temporary moratorium on the demolition of single family homes. The city manager’s memo comes eight months after I made the same request in a petition [PDF] delivered to the Decatur City Commission and more than 18 months after I first suggested it as a Decatur resident. Continue reading

Why radio towers have stripes

Ever wonder why some radio towers are painted in alternating bands of orange and white and others aren’t? The story behind the federally mandated paint scheme goes back to the earliest days of aviation and broadcasting.

WSB broadcast tower, Atlanta, Ga.

WSB broadcast tower, Atlanta, Ga.

Continue reading

A queen-sized hug

Queen Elizabeth II visited Washington, D.C., in the spring of 1991. Her itinerary included parts of the Capital City typically avoided by most visitors, royal and otherwise. An affordable housing development in the city’s Southeast was one of the places Queen Elizabeth visited.

In 2007, I interviewed people who were involved in coordinating the visit and who were principals in the housing development. The Washington, D.C., Local Initiatives Support Corporation continues to post excerpts from the oral histories done to document their history. Continue reading