Kathy Prescott and Grady Thrasher
145 Cloverhurst Circle
Athens, Georgia 30606
July 23, 2012
Environmental Review Coordinator
Historic Preservation Division
Georgia Department of Natural Resources
254 Washington Street, SW
Atlanta, Georgia 30334-9007
R: UGA request to demolish historic Legion Pool and facilities in Athens, GA
Dear Ms. Shirk:
This letter is in response and in formal objection to the letter to you dated June 26, 2012 (stamped received by your office as of July 5, 2012) and signed by W. Paul Cassilly, Director of Design and Construction of the University of Georgia (UGA) Office of Facilities Planning.
We, the undersigned, are but two of what we believe are hundreds, perhaps thousands, of citizens of the Athens, Georgia community who view Legion Pool, the public outdoor swimming facility on Lumpkin Street, as not only a significant historic landmark, but as an ongoing valuable and viable community asset that deserves (and we believe the Georgia State Agency Stewardship Program established by Georgia Code 12-355 requires) protection and preservation by its custodian, UGA, not demolition as UGA would prefer.
With funding provided by the Works Progress Administration, in 1935 Legion Pool was built by Post 20 of the American Legion to serve as a community recreation center. According to an article published April 26 in Athens’ Flagpole magazine, when UGA offered to purchase the pool and surrounding acreage in 1952, then Clarke County Superior Court Judge Henry West, in reviewing the offer noted that the pool was held and operated “more or less in the nature of a trust, built to serve the citizens of Athens”. And thus for 77 years it has been so operated for the benefit of the entire community (the undersigned Grady Thrasher learned to swim there in 1949). Legion Pool was managed by the City of Athens until 1975, after which to the present day the pool has been under the continuous stewardship of UGA.
UGA proposes to destroy this historic and valuable community resource in exchange for a few photographs (in “mitigation”) and suggests that it might construct a new pool several miles from Legion Pool’s downtown location. In addition, the new pool would serve only UGA students and staff. This is not a fair exchange for the loss by the community of a treasured historic site with irreplaceable present and future benefit to the people of Athens.
We note that attachments to the UGA request give reasons why destroying Legion Pool is appropriate. We believe those reasons are insufficient under the law and selectively disingenuous. UGA states that the facilities have a combined insured value of $3,200,000 and that costs of restoration would amount to only $490,000, an amount, we believe, not unreasonable in relation to the total value. The cost of demolition would be $207,000, a seeming $283,000 saving over the cost of restoration, but our community and the State of Georgia would have lost a recreational treasure with a priceless historical value and an insured value of over three million dollars. It just doesn’t seem to make sense.
UGA’s disclaimer that no known person or group opposes the demolition of Legion pool is simply not true. There have been several articles written in opposition to the proposed destruction (copies of selected articles are enclosed). We anticipate you will hear from others in the community who are also chagrined by UGA’s callous unwillingness to honor the implied trust attached to ownership of Legion Pool or its obligations of stewardship under the Georgia Code.
We therefore urge that your department’s review conclude that UGA’s request to demolish Legion Pool is not consistent with the intent of the State Agency Historic Preservation Stewardship Program and applicable law, and that further inquiries and public hearings be held regarding the protection of this historic treasure of our community.
Kathy Prescott and Grady Thrasher