Hoping to spread their interest in preservation, the Student Preservation Association provides service opportunities for SCAD students of any major looking to take part in maintaining Savannah’s historical beauty.
District sat down with graduate Historic Preservation students Barbara Fisher and Greta Wilhelm to talk about preservation projects in Savannah and how SCAD students can get involved with the SPA.
District: SPA is closely associated with the Historic Preservation major. Could you tell us a bit more about what the major entails?
Greta Wilhelm: What might come to mind first is dealing with historic buildings. That’s one thing we do a lot of — going out, taking pictures, assessing the condition of buildings and making recommendations for what could happen with them in the future. It also deals with … making more vital communities through revitalizing downtown and making sustainable places that are walkable and people want to live there — so just bringing some life back to areas that are blighted or under-performing.
District: Tell us about some of the goals SPA has this year.
Wilhelm: We want to be sure that all of the students are aware of preservation events that are going on in the community and also contribute something to that by putting on events on topics that students are interested in, whether it be lectures or trips. We usually do at least one trip a quarter to go to a historic site or city and walk around. We also like to do some service and hands-on work. That’s what we’re going to be doing on Saturday.
District: Could you tell us more about your event this Saturday?
Barbara Fisher: We’re teaming up with the Historic Savannah Foundation. They have a revolving fund, which means they have different houses in the city that they’ve bought and that they’re restoring and they sell. Now money keeps going back into the fund to buy houses throughout the city. We’re going to help them clean up the yards, and things inside and outside the houses.
Wilhelm: We’re meeting at the Clarence Thomas Center for Historic Preservation, formally Gordon Hall, which is over on East Broad Street at 10 a.m. We’re going to have coffee and doughnuts for all the volunteers and then divide up and go to the different spots — there are four or five sites. Anyone can volunteer.
Spa Service Day
Date: Oct. 1
Time: 10 a.m.
Place: Clarence Thomas Center for Historic Preservation
District: How competitive is Savannah in terms of restoration compared to other cities in the nation?
Fisher: Savannah is pretty on top of their game with preservation and restoration, and has good firms and good architects. I think SCAD has absolutely had a lot to do with that in the past 30 years or so. I think we’re pretty competitive with that.
Wilhelm: It’s definitely one of the go-to examples for having historic character and also the really unique way the streets and the squares are laid out. That especially makes it a really beautiful and great example of not just preserving buildings but preserving public space.
Fisher: When we read texts for classes, a lot of times they’ll mention Savannah just as an example, so we think we are in the right place!
District: What’s your favorite example of architecture or place in Savannah based on aesthetic beauty?
Wilhelm: I love bungalows, like around Ardsley Park. That’s my favorite little neighborhood. And the Thomas Street Car District. They have turn of the century houses that are kind of my favorite.
Fisher: I love some of the historic schools. A number of them SCAD has taken over and turned into classrooms and studio space, but there are some still not being used. There’s the Romana Riley School, which is on — I think it’s Anderson or Waters. It’s completely abandoned, but I think it’s absolutely beautiful. I would love to see something happen with that building.
District: Are there any kind of challenges that you come across?
Fisher: I think there are a lot of challenges in terms of educating the public about preservation: what is is, and what it means. We’re not just trying to make house museums out of everything which I think is kind of the misconception.
Wilhelm: Then there are also all the challenges of sometimes it can be really expensive to do things the right way and to use the best materials. So another obstacle is convincing people that it’s really worth it to invest the money and time into preserving things and doing it well.
District: How can students get involved with SPA?
Wilhelm: One good way to start is getting on the SPA email list because we are putting out bulletins and our calendar is coming out. In addition to publicizing our own events, we try to have things on there, whether it’s conferences or lectures in the community that are about preservation. You can sign up through email at firstname.lastname@example.org.Susan Kemp.